How women can play a bigger part in cyber-security - to everyone's benefit

News by Kate O'Flaherty

Book Review: In Security. Jane Frankland shares her experience of being female in what is still a male-dominated sector, while advising other women and the businesses that employ them how to harness their talent and skills.

Like many women working in the cyber-security industry, Jane Frankland has had to battle her way to the top. Despite her current status as a successful entrepreneur, she has faced multiple hurdles during her career – including incidents of casual sexism.

Frankland's book, In Security aims to share her experience of being female in what is still a male-dominated sector, while advising other women and the businesses that employ them how to harness talent and skills.

Her own story is not typical. Soon after completing an arts degree, Frankland fell pregnant and raised her son alone. It was then that she became interested in cyber-security, successfully building and selling her own penetration testing consultancy.

Part biography, part business book, In Security is split into three main parts. Each chapter opens with a personal story, which Frankland links to the themes she is discussing. Often engaging and breaking away from the typical business book format, many of her accounts are shocking. For example, Frankland recounts a man bragging about his policy not to employ women of childbearing age and worse still, his reaction when she confronted him.

To this end, In Security uncovers people's unconscious prejudices, also making reference to the fact that women are still asked whether they plan to have children during job interviews despite the practice having been made illegal in 1975.

It is, of course, a depressing picture, but fortunately In Security also offers a positive message. Underpinning the narrative is the idea that diversity helps with performance. For example, Frankland outlines the multiple advantages to hiring and promoting more women. She points out that women have been found to be more risk averse – a trait that certainly helps in today's cyber-security industry.

At the same time, despite its aim of raising awareness of the need to attract more women into cyber-security, In Security isn't anti-men. Frankland writes about how men can support women and are a vital part of closing the gap – an idea which is already starting to gain traction across the industry.

Among its stand out traits, In Security provides an authoritative voice on the recruitment side of cyber-security. Books about women in IT have been written before, but Frankland enjoys additional kudos because she previously worked in the recruitment sector. This leads her to detail the HR problem: that women are still paid less than their male counterparts and are often overlooked for promotions because of their sex.

In Security also highlights the fact that women don't always put themselves forward for jobs, making it necessary for companies to search more widely when seeking talent. Frankland emphasises the importance of using gender neutral language in job adverts, something that is already being championed by Vodafone under its CSO, Emma Smith.

She also points out that cyber-security could benefit greatly from employing people from other industries. Having come from the arts herself, Frankland knows creative thinkers are needed in security – and that the STEM model in education needs to evolve to cover this.

There is a lot to think about. In Security is an important, honest book that deals with some major issues plaguing the cyber-security industry. Frankland's skill is in transferring her ideas to real-world scenarios: Everything is planned and can be applied in any business place through the ‘Golden Rules' section at the end of each chapter.

If there is anything wrong with In Security, it could perhaps be more concise in places. The narrative does meander slightly on occasion: a few of her anecdotes are too long and the link to the subject matter a little tenuous.

But this should not distract from the overall impact. Frankland's book gives much-needed momentum to the women-in-security movement, in particular through her ‘In Security pledge' – where individuals, event organisers and businesses can commit to encouraging women into the sector.

Indeed, this is a book that should be read by all who are interested in the ability of diversity to fix the talent shortage in cyber-security. As Frankland points out, it is only through action that change can happen in a market still trying to fathom why there aren't more women to fill the growing skills gap.

In Security by Jane Frankland, retails at £19.99 from Amazon.

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