Diversity and Infosec
The Hoppers are a group of women from all parts of the information security sector, coming from different backgrounds with different levels of professional experience.
Although we make up almost half of the population, according to GCHQ we make up only 11% of the U.K. industry. We don’t have figures for other groups. This means when we submit for CFP we have different expectations and anxieties than many men. As there are fewer of us we often have to travel as events struggle to find people locally, often out of pocket and not always sure how well a code of conduct will be enforced.
This means when some of us submit for CFP we have different expectations and anxieties than many men. Some of us hold the assumption of more scrutiny than our male counterparts, with the need to have to provide more evidence to support our arguments, to pair with or include the findings of a man. We brace ourselves for having someone shut us down, because this is what we see when we see other women speak publicly. This is what happens when we speak. This is what we deal with daily on social media and in the workplace.
Now consider what it’s like if they are also a person of colour, someone with a disability or someone who is LGBT+ when they see this.
When we recently asked jokingly if we could start calling all white male panels Jon Snow we didn’t mean “they know nothing”. We meant that because they are all men and all white (like snow) it will be hard for them to speak for the very people we as an industry are struggling to connect with. The very people that we need to come forward if we want this to change. The underrepresented groups. The people who deal with online harassment and workplace discrimination as part of everyday life. In some cases the people who we tagged in the post.
And whilst it’s clear these men don’t “know nothing”, they may know little of why they are struggling to find people who don’t look like them to talk at events. They cannot speak for everyone, they don’t share the same experiences. If we see a panel talking about how to submit to a conference that doesn’t contain even a single woman we assume we are not your target audience.
To reiterate once again, our comment was not an attack on the panellists or the conference but a comment on the industry as a whole. If we really do want representation we need to work at it.
The response to the initial tweet, and the fact that the tweet divided even our own group says to us that we need more of these conversations not less. There was a panel on this very topic at BSides Las Vegas 10 years ago. We need to keep pushing for change, it doesn’t happen in a vacuum so our thanks to everyone who has responded so far, the response has been eye opening.