International Women’s Day is observed each year around the globe as a day to celebrate women’s achievements, raise awareness about gender inequalities and take action to drive greater gender parity around the world.
Within the cybersecurity industry, there has long been a lack of gender and racial diversity. While the industry has made significant strides in improving representation in recent years, there is still much progress to be made. Recent research estimates that women represented just 25% of the cybersecurity workforce in 2022. At a time where there is a global workforce shortage of 3.4 million people needed to fill critical cybersecurity roles, casting a wider net when recruiting and hiring can help organizations identify talented people to close that gap.
Likewise, increasing diversity has been shown to help companies improve decision making, reduce employee turnover, and be more profitable. A study by McKinsey found that companies with more than 30% women executives were more likely to outperform companies with a lower percentage of women executives. In the cybersecurity field, specifically, greater diversity can help teams better identify risks and respond to threats by bringing together people with different backgrounds to examine threats from multiple perspectives and develop novel approaches to solving problems.
In honor of International Women’s Day, we are highlighting some of the many talented and accomplished women working at Bitdefender. We sat down with Erin Meyers, Senior Manager, Product Marketing to discuss her professional background, how she came to work in cybersecurity, and her advice for other women working in, or aiming to join the cybersecurity industry.
A conversation with Erin Meyers, Senior Manager, Product Marketing at Bitdefender
Tell us a little about your role at Bitdefender.
I’m a Senior Manager of Product Marketing at Bitdefender. I cover the managed services portion of our business, including our Managed Detection and Response (MDR) service as well as our Professional Services and Premium Support. I really enjoy working in the cybersecurity sector, and specifically with the MDR team at Bitdefender. Demand for MDR services has really exploded in recent years. There are so many cybercriminals out there and the number of ransomware attacks and advanced persistent threats (APTs) continues to grow. Organizations of all sizes know they need to be safeguarded, but many don’t have the types of cybersecurity solutions or expertise available in-house to do the job.
That’s where MDR comes in. It’s a managed service that provides a team of cybersecurity experts to monitor an organization 24x7 and respond to threats. It enables organizations to pursue their goals of becoming cyber resilient when they otherwise might not be able to.
Cybersecurity is an exciting industry to work in. You can bring a lot of creativity to cybersecurity, and I think that’s why it attracts people from a wide variety of backgrounds and with different mindsets. The diversity of thought is essential for cybersecurity – it enables us to push boundaries, solve complicated problems and push the field forward.
How did you come to work in the cybersecurity industry?
I’ve taken a different path to working in the cybersecurity industry than perhaps other people have. When I was an undergraduate student, I didn’t plan to enter into cybersecurity, or even the technology industry. I was an International Politics and Classics major. But, after graduating college and working in communications in that realm for a couple years, I realized that’s not what I wanted to do. At that point, I decided I wanted to become a physician. I secured a Post-Doc in Biochemistry but after a couple years of that, I realized I didn’t want to go to medical school.
The thing that ultimately brought me to work in the technology sector was a move to Seattle. There, I began working in communications for technology companies and enterprise startups. I found that I loved the pace of change in the technology industry. It was always interesting. I began working for a cloud migration company where I entered into a product marketing position. From there, I later moved to other technology companies. I got my first taste of cybersecurity working at a multi-cloud security application and delivery company and realized that I wanted to explore this space further. From there, I went to a pure-play MDR provider and later to Bitdefender.
How has your overall experience been, as a woman working in the technology sector?
I’ve perhaps had a bit of a different experience in this realm as well. I had a very progressive education at an all-female school. As a result, I was very comfortable using my voice and articulating my viewpoints. In an all-female environment like the school I went to, it’s never questioned that you don’t know what you’re talking about because you are a woman. You demonstrate that you know what you’re talking about by working hard and being able to articulate your viewpoints. That’s not how it always works in the professional world, but I feel this background gave me a step up when I began my career. I didn’t have to “find my voice” or learn to become comfortable with speaking up. I knew that I had a valid point of view and that my voice deserved to be heard. Granted, that sometimes resulted in consequences along the way, but they never dissuaded me from knowing that my perspective and point of view were valid and deserved to be heard.
I believe we’ve made substantial steps toward gender equity in the cybersecurity industry, but we still have a lot of work to do. I’m pleased to say that in recent years, the industry has become a real platform for strong female leaders to have a voice. One example, and someone whom I really look up to as a female voice and leader is Allie Mellen from Forrester. It is an inspiration to see her and other smart women like her in the industry and observe how they handle themselves and make their voices heard. I think we need to continue to find more women in leadership positions throughout the cybersecurity industry and provide them a platform from which to speak.
What advice would you give to other women working in the cybersecurity sector, or looking to enter it?
One of the most important things, and something I tell my colleagues who are just starting out, is the importance of having a mentor. Whether male or female, it’s incredibly valuable for everyone to have a mentor whom they can bounce ideas off of, ask questions to and get feedback. I developed mentors later in my career and as a result, I recommend people do it as early as possible. I’m a mentor myself now for others. The relationship is so fruitful and rewarding for both the mentee and the mentor, and I believe its crucial for both men and women to help them grow and advance in their careers.
I would also tell others: Don’t be afraid to take risks. Put yourself in uncomfortable situations where you can not only make an impact, but also learn and grow from those challenges. Young people starting out should seek out internships to see if they like the field and begin developing relationships at an organization they might be able to work for in the future. No matter what stage you’re at in your career, though, I would say “Take the risk.” Try something even if you think you might not be qualified. I wish I had a mentor earlier in my career who could have explained to me that feeling unsure is normal and you can move past it. Just do it - take on the challenge.
What does the future look like for women in cybersecurity?
Improving diversity and equity in the cybersecurity sector remains a challenge, but I think we’re making substantial progress. There have been some great initiatives to increase diversity launched in recent years, and I’d like to see those efforts and initiatives increase.
There’s a great book by the author Julia Boorstin, called When Women Lead. I’ve shared it with friends, colleagues, and direct reports. It does an excellent job of reshaping the conversation to highlight the capabilities and advantages that women bring to their workplaces. Boorstin interviewed female leaders and executives from across different industries and discovered key commonalities that helped them be successful leaders. Specifically, she states that they’re highly adaptive to change, deeply empathetic in their management style, and much more likely to integrate other opinions into the organization and bring them to the forefront. She says these are women’s superpowers. I love that idea. It’s not about claiming that women are better leaders than men, or vice versa. It’s about bringing to the forefront the strengths and capabilities that we can each bring to an organization to make it better.
This year’s theme for International Women’s Day is “Embrace Equity.” What does that mean to you?
I interpret it as a directive to all humans to invest in fairness, honesty, integrity and gender equity between men and women. We’re not asking for more, we’re asking for an even playing field. Organizations and individuals alike should invest in these things. We’ve made substantial strides, but more can be done. Gender equity in the industry shouldn’t be viewed as some sort of utopia, but as something feasible – and we should aim to achieve it.
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