Whether deliberate or unconscious, bias makes it challenging for women to move ahead. Knowing that bias exists isn’t enough, action is needed to level the playing field. The International Women’s Day 2022 theme is to #BreakTheBias. The celebration of this year’s Women’s Day intends to call everyone, women and men, to fight for a world free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination. A world that is diverse, equitable and inclusive.
Part of the #BreakTheBias theme is to forge inclusive work cultures, where women’s careers thrive, and their achievements are celebrated. Thales asked six women in the cybersecurity industry to provide their opinions on how business can build an inclusive work culture and what this means for security leaders around the world. Let’s hear what they have to say.
Sharon Ginga, Encryption Product Marketing Director at Thales
“Building an inclusive workplace culture takes effort, a conscious decision on the part of the key stakeholders, and all the decision makers, to accelerate recruitment of women across the board, and to promote them to higher positions, including management.
Key to success is ensuring a respectful work environment that allows all individuals regardless of gender, race, religion, or any other differentiator to feel secure and to contribute to collective success.
But inclusion, and gender parity as a part of that, is much bigger than just the workplace. As the mother of daughters, I want to ensure that their path is smoother than others who have gone before them, from studying STEM, to choosing their careers, and thriving within organizations that recognize their talents.
I’m also the mother of a son with special needs, on the Autistic spectrum. For him, and for us, his family, inclusion is our mission, and often a battle, every single day. From integration into a regular school framework, to his after school activities, to planning his future. And when I think about his future beyond high school, since he’s already 16, it’s here that I look to the workplace, mine and others, to promote true diversity and a more inclusive, accepting culture. Regardless of your level within an organization, as an individual or as a manager, we can all make decisions that empower, or impede, the people around you. It’s up to us to break the bias – we can all choose to be part of the workforce for inclusion.
Thales has set itself well-defined objectives regarding gender and diversity and is actively making an effort to make sure these goals are achieved. It’s definitely a long way from the start of my career, where it was assumed I’d take notes and/or make coffee just because I was the only woman in the room.”
Danna Bethlehem, Identity and Access Management Product Marketing Director at Thales
“When looking to build an inclusive work culture, organizations could focus on the following three areas:
Flexibility – offer employees flexible working hours where possible. This allows employees to be more independent, maintain balance between work and personal commitments and manage their time more effectively and achieve objectives by having more control.
Nurture multi-discipline backgrounds – When assessing work applications or mobility inside an organization consider broad work experience and educational background that may not necessarily be related directly to the specific job description.
Finally, ensure team activities are suited to all members of the team.”
Rachel Present Schreter, Software Licensing Content and Product Marketing Director at Thales
“I believe an inclusive work culture relies on actions, not simply words. Leaders too often look for teams that look like themselves, when the goal should be a team that can bring a diversity of views and experiences to the table. Inclusive workplaces work best when they are focused on different voices being heard and making space for everyone to share their opinions.
In terms of strategic focus areas, I think there’s a global awakening happening now about under-represented groups, particularly people of color. I would love to see all organizations focus on hiring more people of color who have been historically disenfranchised. To successfully create inclusive environments, companies should:
- Make sure to pay all employees market rate salaries, including if they are unaware of the market rate.
- Actively recruit from under-represented groups, including women, people of color, and older employees.
- Offer flexible work/life balance opportunities to all, enabling employees who are also caretakers to be successful.”
Jane Frankland, Owner and CEO at KnewStart, UNESCO Trailblazing Woman in Tech
“Building an inclusive work culture requires far more than outsourcing to your Human Resources or Inclusion and Diversity teams. It means getting buy-in (and evidence of it) from management; defining what good looks like; and communicating, managing, and measuring it as a cybersecurity leader.
Whilst awareness training is necessary so you build understanding, you must prepare for what and who may get in the way. To succeed, you must also apply positive regard, genuineness, and transactional analysis i.e., I’m OK-You’re OK principles. When building an inclusive work culture, know your metrics, but also think about what it feels like to be excluded, and where this occurs.
For example, is it in a meeting when only the most dominant, loudest voices are heard? Is it when building teams with people you know, like and trust – people who most probably look like you? Is it after work when social interactions occur at the pub or bar and involve late nights and alcohol? The list could go on and on, so ask for help from minority groups to compile this information.
Winnie Wong, APAC Regional & Channel Marketing for Data Security products at Thales
“An organization should aim to create a culture that embraces unique ideas, perspectives, experiences and people. Many aspects contribute to building an inclusive work culture. As a manager of a small team, I believe the most important one is for them to feel that they are being valued.
When an employee feels that their voice and opinion are appreciated, there’s a greater sense of value and satisfaction. Also, do not expect to achieve inclusion by the book, some organizations look to recruit and profile their employees to meet certain metrics by ethnicity, gender etc., and neglect the employee’s experience. Afterall, inclusive work culture is not and should not be viewed as a set of KPI.”
Christine Draper, VP Finance and CFO for Data Security at Thales
“An inclusive culture helps employees feel comfortable expressing their ideas and opinions in the workplace among coworkers and managers. Everyone’s views are respected and heard. People feel included, valued, and respected and can perform to the best of their ability.
You need to be open to receive new views and have people challenge yours. It’s also OK to agree or to disagree as long as it is done in a constructive non-threatening manner. This is important as engaged and motivated employees help improve a company’s innovation, decision making and bottom line. They will also stay longer with the company and as employees are a key resource and investment.
As a company we need to listen and understand the “current state” of employees. We can do this by employee surveys, workshops, one-to-one meetings etc. We can create environments to support and grow this culture. Mentoring, career path/development initiatives, events to support/recognize the cultural differences etc. Finally, companies need to be flexible and accommodate everyone's needs; flex time/remote work; prayer room, disability infrastructure, special computers, wellness/support programs.”
Once you know where and when exclusion occurs plus who it affects, you can then address it, positively.”
Individually, we're all responsible for our own thoughts and actions - all day, every day. We can break the bias in our communities. We can break the bias in our workplaces. We can break the bias in our schools, colleges and universities.
We can all #BreakTheBias. “All you need is your own imagination. So use it that's what it's for.*”
Strike a pose.
* Lyrics from Madonna’s “Vogue” released in March 20, 1990.