The gender gap in the technology industry is a well-known issue - but less spoken of.
A 2017 study conducted by (ISC)² and its Centre for Cyber Safety and Education found that women comprise just 11 per cent of the current global cyber security workforce.
And our own recent survey on women in cyber security found that most women in the US, Europe, and Israel rule out a career in cybersecurity by age 16.
This data wouldn’t be surprising to many, even for me. But I would say this is one of the biggest misconception about the industry. Many miss the fact that in an organisation, there are several roles one can explore.
For myself, I aspired to be a business woman from young, even before my college days. As I look into the trends at that time, IT was just starting out as a booming industry, and I saw the potential of the industry - and proceeded with a computer studies course back in tertiary days.
Despite being in the IT industry for more than two decades, I would not consider myself a technical person. But it does not mean that a woman would not be able to succeed in the IT industry.
To be successful in the industry, you need to add passion and persistence to your skill set.
I also believe that there has been an increasing effort by organisations to honour women in the industry, for example, featuring diverse speakers at conferences and cybersecurity events focused recognising women who have contributed significantly in their roles, making it easier as compared to when I first joined the industry.
Being the intermediary between organisation and partners in a male-dominated industry, it is important to identify your strengths use it to your advantage.
I would say, being a female in this industry may actually be a competitive advantage for us when it comes to negotiation.
People in general tend to be more forgiving towards women even when we make mistakes; and some view it as a powerful tool of persuasion, even up to the extent of manipulation.
However, in using this to our advantage, it is very important never ever to cross the fine line, but to do it in a professional and ethical manner for a long-standing positive personal integrity.
Having been in the channel role for more than 20 years, one thing I learnt is that building your own brand and credibility would add much more value than hiding behind a company’s brand, for partners to acknowledge your ability and want to do business with you.
To build this trust and respect among partners, I believe knowledge and sincerity goes hand in hand. Treating them as my friends, I would want to help solve the problems as best as I could.
My aim is to be the go-to person that friends, and partners, would look for whenever they have a need or challenge and hope you will be able to solve or help them with.
They come to you with the hope of your help and solution. You want them to tell you all about the issue so you know how best to help them.
My rule of thumb: listen to what they say. Understand their struggles and challenge. Empathise with them - and I believe this is where women do it better than men.
Being in the intermediary role allows you to understand the strength and challenges of both parties, to put together a solution that will solve their problems, or at least make life easier without affecting your company’s bottom line.
Most of the time, even if it does not end up with a result favourable to them, partners will still stick with you because they know you have at least fought for them.
The challenge of balancing between partners and organisation, and successfully devising a win-win situation is what gives me a sense of satisfaction.
When partners know you are genuinely trying to help them with their struggles, they will reciprocate in their actions for your business.
This journey is definitely not an easy one, but it will be a rewarding one.
Vanessa Ng is head of channels across Southeast Asia at Kaspersky Lab