By 8 September 2022 | Categories: interviews


Tarryn Maitland, Regional Account Manager at Trend Micro, addresses the issue of underrepresentation of women in technology. Ryan Noik chats to her about what is impeding its progress and what Trend Micro believes needs to change to empower more women in this vibrant field.

RN: There has been some awareness around the need for greater representation of women in technology over the past few years. But what are the major impedances that still need to be addressed?

TM: The biggest obstacle faced by women is the perception that women don’t belong in certain fields, especially tech. Despite attempts to portray women in STEM careers, the media still perpetuated the idea that tech, especially cybersecurity is a masculine field. This has bubbled down to impact how everybody views theirs or their peer’s place in the workplace.

This is one of the main contributing factors to why few women pursue a career in the cybersecurity field. However, this is compounded by the environment that many cybersecurity companies have created. When those few women who do pursue a career in cybersecurity they are often met with a very uncomfortable working environment that is entirely geared towards their male counterparts. Despite 52% of advanced cyber security qualifications being held by women, the percentage of women in senior management is less than half that. This just goes to show the difficult path women have to tread to be taken seriously. Unfortunately, this chases many women away from the industry, many before they even start.

This needs to be challenged at an organizational level. Cybersecurity companies need to become more aware of the historic bias that they hold and actively work to create a more inclusive environment. Trend Micro, for example, has put a lot of work into creating corporate training programs to educate employees on the importance of diversity, not only in terms of sex but also religion, race, and sexual orientation.

RN: Do you think the industry needs more visible female role models who are in the cybersecurity field, to inspire particular young girls to choose it as a potential career track?

TM: Having role models is always important. However, I don’t think there is a lack of female role models within the industry. For example, Trend Micro’s co-founder Eva Chen has spoken many times about the importance of diversity in Trend Micro and the industry. I believe that it is the emergence and prominence of these women that have driven improvements in the industry from 11% in 2013 to 23% now. What we need now is for the media and entertainment to change their perception and shift their portrayal from Mr. Robot-type role models to those that more accurately represent the real heroes of cybersecurity.

RN: What are a couple of the main misconceptions around working in cybersecurity that you most want to see dispelled?

TM: The main misconception that we would like to dispel is the idea that working in cybersecurity is like working in a war room. Although industry jargon leans into this perception it could not be further from the truth.

Yes, cybersecurity is fast paced, it is dynamic, and it is high energy. What it is not, is hunched over men in dark hoodies none of whom have seen the sun in a month typing away on laptops in a dungeon somewhere. These ideas all feed into the idea that cybersecurity is and should be a boy’s club, which is not the case at all. Firstly, we have windows. And nobody working in the basement! Secondly, the problem-solving skills and ability to think on your feet which are crucial to success in the industry have no gender, nor do they have a race, something which many of our employees can hold testament to! Cybersecurity is a career in which anybody can thrive.

RN: How much has been done to update the prevailing perception of what it is like to work in technology, and what more needs to be done to make cybersecurity a more attractive career option?

TM: There has been quite a lot of work put into changing the prevailing perception of what it is like to work in the technology field, but some sectors have seen more success than others. I think there still needs to be more visibility around the opportunities that cybersecurity holds right from the graduate and possibly even high school level.

RN: From a South African perspective, how much further do we still have to go to bring computer sciences into schools to stoke interest at an early age?

TM: In South Africa, we still have a long way to go in terms of making subjects like computer science available in all schools. The computer science program in many private and model C schools is very good, but this only accounts for a small portion of the population. Most students in South Africa attend public schools, of which, only 4 out of every 10 have a computer facility. Even when there are computers available, they tend to be outdated or never used. As a result, many graduating students have had little to no exposure to technology making a career in any STEM field extremely difficult.

RN: Finally, can you elaborate on the kind of inclusion training and initiatives Trend Micro is implementing to make their environment safer for women in tech positions?

TM: Trend Micro has implemented extensive Diversity and Inclusion training designed to make our company a safe space for people from all backgrounds. Trend Micro’s Certification Program in IT Security (CPITS) reflects our commitment to closing the cybersecurity skills gap and increasing diversity in the industry. Trainees undergo a free 10-week program focusing on the soft and hard skills required to start out in the field. Those who complete the CPITS receive a bursary and certification, with the potential for full-time employment for a number of program graduates.


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