Women in Cyber: An Interview with Jane Frankland

Women in Cyber: An Interview with Jane Frankland

Welcome to our Women in Cyber blog series, where we spotlight the remarkable contributions and perspectives of women in the cybersecurity field. In an industry often dominated by men, these women are breaking barriers, shaping strategies, and leading innovations to safeguard our digital world. Join us as we explore their stories, experiences, and insights, celebrating their vital roles in securing cyberspace for generations to come.

Jane Frankland

In this instalment of the Women in Cyber series, we had the pleasure of speaking with Jane Frankland, one of the most influential women in cyber, founding the ‘IN security’ movement, and author of ‘IN Security: Why a Failure to Attract and Retain Women in Cybersecurity Is Making Us All Less Safe‘.  We discussed Jane’s experience as a women in cyber and her advice to ladies looking to join the industry.

Stay tuned for our next interview, where we’ll continue to spotlight remarkable women breaking barriers, driving innovation, and safeguarding our digital world. Together, let’s celebrate their contributions and empower the next generation of cybersecurity leaders.

What’s a common misconception about women in cyber?

I’d say there is a misconception that the numbers of women in cybersecurity are okay but the reality is, they’re not. The percentage of women in cyber is decreasing and more women than ever are dissatisfied. You only have to look at the trend from ISC2’s annual Workforce Studies. Alongside this, media attention is waning, and people are getting tired of the efforts. Some women don’t want the focus, preferring to just get on and do their job. Then, some men want to help, but fear the backlash of getting involved and being framed in a negative light. Right now, and not just in cyber, we’re more polarised and divided than ever, rather than united. But that’s a common trend during extensive periods of peace.

Do you think companies are doing enough to support the women in cyber efforts?

No – not at all. In fact, I think many efforts are rather pathetic. Usually all I’ll see them doing is getting some women at their company to start a women’s network, and then asking women to come in and speak to them for free. They burden women with yet another role and encroach further on their time. It’s just not good enough.

What advice would you give to women who are looking to kickstart their careers in cybersecurity?

If you think cybersecurity is the right place for you then we need you, we want you, and we value you – welcome! You can do really well in the industry, you can pave a fantastic career, that’s great, dynamic and constantly evolving. It’s also a well-paid industry, which of course can be a motivation for many, if not all, and if you’re dedicated enough – you’ll have a great opportunity to do some really meaningful work.

For women, at times the gender gap can be an advantage, because as a minority you’ll have the opportunity to stand out. So don’t fear the ideology of ‘have I just been recruited because I am a woman?’ My advice is always to worry less about this. If you have an advantage, use it! Have enough faith in yourself that you’re the right person for the job and that you have the capabilities to fulfil this role.

What unique challenges and obstacles do women face in cybersecurity?

There are so many, but the main one that stands out to me is the enoughness or the too-muchness. The idea that you’re not enough, or you’re too much – you’re not technical enough or you’re too technical.  It’s just this constant battle that you can’t win, and that is very, very common. Women get that far more than men, and that comes down to stereotypes and bias. You have to find the right environment for you, a place that you won’t be subjected to that level of bias at the recruitment stage or the promotion stage. The other way to navigate that is to turn it on its head and start your own company because, truthfully, no one gives a damn when you’re selling.

What top three things do you think companies, and the industry as a whole, could focus on to improve the presence and representation of women in cyber and encourage women to join the industry?

Encouraging women to join the industry is rooted into getting into schools and colleges. Now this doesn’t specifically mean it has to be a woman that goes in, but it needs to be someone who is inspiring and who can really communicate and demonstrate the diversity of what the industry offers. We need people in educational facilities now.

The other point that’s really concerning is the number of women who are leaving the industry ahead of time. There is a big drop in the number of women around the 30–35-year age group. Usually this happens when they’re just fed up of working so hard, (typically twice as hard as their male counterparts) and are not being promoted fast enough, and they are told they need to fulfil a longer duration of time before they can achieve a promotion. There’s a lot of resistance to change.

In terms of companies, companies need to work harder to understand what the problem is. It’s important for companies to recognise at the recruitment stage there may be unconscious biases that are eliminating and discouraging women, and so to work on those so that it fosters a positive culture, not just for women but for candidates in general.

Where do you see the future of cybersecurity and the future of women in cyber going over the next couple of years?

I don’t know where I see women in cyber going at all. With the numbers declining, it’s really concerning. Having been focused on attracting and retaining women in cyber security  exclusively since the publication of my book, IN Security in 2017, and for being in the industry for over 26 years, I’m not seeing the big changes I expected. However, that said, what I am seeing is an increase in the number of younger women joining the industry, which is great, as well as there being a push in terms of ethnicity. The industry must be congratulated on this but it must fix its leaky pipeline especially considering where the industry is going and its reliance on AI. It’s both exciting and deeply concerning – but the good news is, cyber is a buoyant industry and still desperately needs more women.