'More Women in Cybersecurity Can Close Gender Gap In Male-Dominated Industries' says Tenable's Bridgett Paradise

'More Women in Cybersecurity Can Close Gender Gap In Male-Dominated Industries' says Tenable's Bridgett Paradise

By: Bridgett Paradise, Chief People & Culture Officer, Tenable | Thursday, 18 May 2023

Bridgett brings more than 20 years of experience to her role. She leads the company’s human resources strategy and policies, global recruitment efforts, and organizational development programs, all of which drive the company’s next phase of growth and international expansion.

Prior to joining Tenable, she served as chief people officer for Citadel Securities, a global financial institution in Chicago. She also served as Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s senior vice president and chief people officer, where her responsibilities spanned global talent management and recruitment, as well as organizational design and employee benefits. Bridgett also spent more than 20 years at Microsoft Corporation, where she last served as human resources’ general manager for the worldwide services division. Bridgett has a master’s degree in human resources management and a bachelor’s degree in business communications.

In a conversation with Women Entrepreneur India magazine, Bridgett speaks about women’s presence in the global cybersecurity industry, her role at Tenable, and much more.

What are some of Tenable’s initiatives in encouraging more women in cybersecurity?

The Women@Tenable ERG is an excellent example of how we are focused on creating a community and providing resources for women within the organization and beyond. Additionally, Tenable is invested in building DEI competencies for all employees through our Diversity Equity & Inclusion Learning and Development Curriculum. We also partner with Diversity organizations to recognize and reward the contributions of our women employees in STEM. Overall, these efforts create a more inclusive workplace and foster a sense of belonging for all employees.

Cybersecurity is highly dominated by men. What is the changing role of women in cybersecurity?

We are beginning to witness more women continuing to forge ahead and fill critical cybersecurity roles but there’s more work to be done. A recent study found that women will represent 35% of the global cybersecurity workforce by 2030 and this progress can be sped up if organizations in the sector focus on initiatives to introduce more women into the industry. With more women in cybersecurity, they can open doors for the younger generation to close the gender gap in male-dominated industries.

What can businesses do to break down stereotypes and misconceptions about women in cybersecurity?

One of the biggest misconceptions is that women in cybersecurity are somehow not as technical as their male counterparts, which is not true. The great thing about the field of cybersecurity is that there are many facets to it - from roles that are more technical to roles that are more strategic in nature. By having purposeful inclusivity and equity practices and conversations, organizations can help employees become more aware of these biases.

What role do businesses play in encouraging more women to enter the cybersecurity industry?

Efforts to empower women to participate in cybersecurity will broaden horizons for women, and strengthen cyber resilience. Businesses can begin by incentivizing participation in diverse groups and taking steps to create a more diverse and equitable workforce. Organizations should encourage their employees to actively contribute to cultivating a diverse and inclusive environment. This can be done by emphasizing providing equal opportunities for women and those from diverse backgrounds to overcome the unconscious biases that exist. Businesses can develop additional programs that provide more interactive and hands-on cybersecurity training to improve accessibility to such instruction.

Furthermore, all industries, especially cybersecurity, should continue placing emphasis on work-life balance and include benefits like flexible work schedules and maternity/paternity leave, which make balancing work, home, and family life easier. This can lead to equitable outcomes for women.

Currently, women working in cybersecurity account for less than one-quarter (24%) of the overall workforce. And only 7% of women hold leadership roles in cybersecurity. What can organizations in the cybersecurity industry do to ensure more women end up in leadership positions in the industry?

Equity is achieved only when women are viewed as industry experts instead of ‘women in cybersecurity’. Whether it is the lack of opportunities or the lack of the volume of candidates who want to be part of the field — identifying why the gap exists can help organizations determine how to bridge that gap. Moving the needle on improving diversity takes the effort of the entire organization. From executive leaders to line managers, the general employee population, and HR/Talent Acquisition - we need it to be top of mind as we make talent decisions.

Currently, there exists a major talent gap in cybersecurity. How can businesses bridge this talent gap with DE&I initiatives?

Addressing this shortage is a much larger challenge than any single company can resolve. It will require major investments from and collaboration between, key stakeholders to retrain and retool candidates and a concerted effort on all fronts to attract and retain people in our field.

We need to encourage an interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields at a younger age, and that includes ways to address the under-representation of diverse backgrounds in these subjects. Diversity of thought, background, and experience is critical to the problem-solving needed in cybersecurity.

What are the challenges that women in cybersecurity face when it comes to mentorship? How can organizations work to overcome these challenges?

Organizations can create and encourage mentorship opportunities for women to position themselves for success in their careers. At Tenable, we provide formal mentoring programs to help connect Tenable employees in ongoing professional learning and development relationships.

What advice would you give women and those from underrepresented groups interested in cybersecurity?

Believe in your capability and take that first step to ask for new opportunities - whether it’s leading a new project, asking for a promotion, or a different role that will benefit your career. Join professional organizations for women with similar career aspirations and support one another. Find mentors who can also guide you in your journey. Do something, do anything, it all contributes to broader change.