Celebrate Diversity Month: How Diversity is Improving Security Teams
Author: Megan McCann
April 6, 2023
Celebration of diversity, cultures, and perspectives is the heart of any healthy, profitable business. However, many institutions fail to diagnose their lack of diversity as a fundamental issue that must be overcome through active thought and practice.
So, in the spirit of celebrating Diversity Month (also known on many calendars as “April”), I’ll share some of the learnings I’ve gained throughout my tech career and experience founding an IT recruitment firm in 2011. I’ll also explain how and why companies must capitalize on Diversity Month to help form ideas, improve practices, and build a more inclusive, flourishing environment for their workforce.
In “Telling Our Story, A Look Back at ARA’s Impact on Women in Technology & Embracing Equity on the Path Forward,” a webinar sponsored by Morningstar last month, we talked about the evolution of DEIB (Diversity Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging) in the technology space. While we as an industry have made marked progress unfortunately, we also have a long way to go. Here are some daunting stats:
- At the pace we’re going globally, it will take 132 years to close the global gender gap
- Only 25% of tech grads are women
- One-third of women who go into tech drop out by age 35
- In the next 12 months, as many as 30% of women say they plan to actively seek a new job
- Fewer than half (45%) of organization surveyed report they have made advancing for women into leadership roles a top, formal business priority
What Is Diversity Month?
Ultimately, a dedicated Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion department is critical to establishing a more well-rounded, conscious company. However, April is when companies commit to creating conversations and engaging employees on issues relating to the necessity of a diverse workforce. These conversations can either uplift past and present achievements or reflect on areas requiring improvement.
It’s also important to remember that although diversity is a serious topic, it’s a time of celebration! So don’t forget to make time to celebrate the fact that your workforce is a one-of-a-kind mosaic — formed of people from all backgrounds, races, genders, sexual orientations, ages, abilities, experiences, and so so many more amazing factors.
But, of course, I’d love to talk about the celebratory elements of Diversity Month. The main goal of my work is to help companies understand how they can fashion mindsets and habits that encourage diversity instead of blockading it. From there, companies can find solutions, improve hiring practices, and achieve an environment that places diversity at its forefront.
What Is My Experience With Diversity?
As you might imagine, you’ll run into competing definitions of diversity. I look at it from the standpoint of thoughtfully considering how to bring historically underrepresented and marginalized groups into industries that have long kept them on the outside. That’s the key to achieving diversity within corporate settings.
Although most people might nod their heads in agreement with the statement that no community thrives in an eco-chamber, many companies fail to see this every day. Especially in my field of IT, entire communities, identities, and groups — especially women — are constantly rejected because of either unconscious bias or outright sexism/bigotry.
The tech talent gap is one of the fundamental reasons I founded McCann Partners. While courses, seminars, classes, and panels about inclusivity are helpful, I recognized an immediate need to combat the shortcomings of the IT industry by advocating for diversity via recruitment.
The journey, although rocky at times, has been immensely rewarding. I’m proud to say that McCann Partner’s talent placements are made up of more than over 70% diversity hires.
As your company heads into diversity month, let’s discuss some of the significant benefits and practices companies can consider implementing to achieve diversity goals.
How Can Diversity Improve IT & Security Teams?
Thankfully, the awareness of the need for diversity and inclusion has become more widespread. However, some choose to not legitimize the need for diversity efforts.
These claims, while disappointing in their own right, are flatly untrue. While diversity is a necessary goal on its own, businesses unquestionably gain many benefits from diversifying teams and restructuring hiring processes to diminish the likelihood of unconscious bias.
Moreover, understanding these benefits is crucial for industries like cybersecurity, as studies show that 15% of cybersecurity professionals are non-white, only 31% are female, and 10% are LGBTQ+.
Though women remain underrepresented in the IT industry, the good news is, there are several groups working to support women and close the diversity gap in tech:
- Ada Developers Academy
- Black Girls Code
- Change Catalyst
- Girl Develop It
- Girls in Tech
- Girls Who Code
- League of Women Coders
- National Center for Women & Information
- Technology (NCWIT)
- Women in STEM
- Women in Tech (WIT)
- Women in Technology (WIT)
- Women in Tech Council (WTC)
- Women in Technology International (WITI)
- Women Who Code
Expand and Improve Problem-Solving
Digital security is a rapidly shifting industry. As such, tech security companies need as much perspective as possible. It’s the only way to build entirely successful solutions.
Simply put, diverse teams generate better ideas. By including more voices in the conversation, teams can identify, assess, and solve issues with greater creativity and speed at every step of the problem-solving process.
Increase Employee Engagement and Performance
Information and cybersecurity challenges evolve rapidly, meaning high performance is a must. For this reason, teams need to be as engaged as possible.
Many studies show that companies actively promoting and recruiting diverse talent have greater success. For example, this study shows that teams prioritizing inclusivity have a higher performance of 80% over those that don’t.
Develop More Efficient Hiring Practices
Many might assume adding diversity initiatives to hiring practices would elongate the hiring process. Well — think again.
In reality, recruiting with diversity in mind allows businesses to streamline operations because it calls for a more structured, thoughtful approach that eliminates needless communication and individual meetings.
Yes, it requires a conscious effort to cast a wider net for candidate sourcing, selecting diverse hiring committees, and adjusting job descriptions/requirements with inclusive language and imagery. However, companies save time and resources once these elements are in place because the process becomes more objective-oriented.
Happy Diversity Month!
As we head into April, make sure to continue learning about how you and your company can build a more inclusive, unique workforce.
Feel free to begin by looking at some of the articles below and begin paving the way toward a more diverse future.
About the Author
Megan’s impact on the tech community far exceeds her day-to-day work as CEO of her own firm, McCann Partners. Passionate about attracting, retaining, and advancing women in technology, Megan is a proud co-founder of ARA, a national organization that seeks to promote women in technology and leadership through mentorship, events, and programs. Her additional industry and leadership affiliations include membership in the American Staffing Association, CHIEF, and the TechServe Alliance.
She is also a founding partner of the Chicago Executive Women’s Networking Group and an active member of Chicago Innovation’s Women’s Mentoring Co-Op. In addition, she’s been recognized as a Chicago Business Journal Bizwomen Headliner in Technology, Chicago Business Journal Women of Influence, a three-time Midwest Women in Tech Awards finalist, and an Illinois Technology Association CityLIGHTS finalist. In 2021, Megan was named to Staffing Industry Analysts inaugural Top 50 DE&I Influencers list and selected as a ChiTech Academy Young Women’s Leadership Society Ambassador of the Year.
- What is unconscious bias
- More information on McCann partners
- National cyber security center: decrypting diversity report
- 18 organizations advancing women in tech
- 12 ways diversity makes a difference in tech
- How inclusivity increases performance
- Benefits of recruiting for diversity
- World economic forum’s global gender gap report
- Accenture & girls who code “resetting tech culture” report
- Dress for success shines a light on women leaders
- Report by chief & the ibm institute for business value (ibv)