Women have always played a significant role in the IT revolution. They can offer different skills, inventive perspectives, and, importantly, cultural, and structural differences that can lead to better solutions. The result is a positive impact on a company’s bottom line. Diversifying the tech industries enhances the industry’s strength and drives innovation for the good of society. Yet, there is a significant gender gap in every part of the tech industry. Hence, it is imperative that more women work in more specialized fields like data governance, security, and compliance, to set an example, encourage more women to enter this industry, and show the right path to future generations.
Let us learn about such powerful women who have been pioneers and game-changer in various technological fields.
• The first computer programmer is often considered to be a woman and she was Lady Ada Lovelace, born in 1815. As the first person to recognize the full capabilities of Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine, she was the only one to create a program for a computational device. Furthermore, an Ada programming language was named after her.
• In the early 20th century during World War II, six women pioneered the new field of computer programming, a time when the government encouraged women to take on wartime jobs while men fought overseas. At first, the military hired them as “computers” to calculate ballistics trajectories manually. Among other things, this meant determining how far away the target was, how the weather was that day, and how soldiers should angle their shots.
• By 1945, almost 100 women were working as “computers.” One of them was Jean Jennings Bartik, who led the development of computer memory, and Frances Elizabeth “Betty” Holberton, who created the first computer program. The group prepared the groundwork for future programmers and software engineers by bringing together Frances Bilas Spence, Marlyn Wescoff Meltzer, Kathleen “Kay” McNulty Mauchly Antonelli, and Ruth Lichterman Teitelbaum. Due to their position as the first modern computer programmers, they taught others how to program after the war.
With time, big data and machine learning have gained prominence, causing an enormous increase in powerful technologies and applications. Parallel with this, the same technologies have become a privacy nightmare for their users, so there is a growing interest in areas such as data governance, security, and compliance.
• Like computer programming, cybersecurity started as a stepping stone for women in the 1940s, when the field was still young. As coder girls, these women helped win World War II by cracking German and Japanese codes. Virginia D. Aderholt became the first American to discover that World War II had officially ended in 1945. We now recognize her as one of 10,000 women who were pioneers in cybersecurity.
These women worked behind the scenes as wartime intelligence. They are not just part of a story, but also important contributors and accelerators of opportunity and change the perspective for many women in the fields of data governance, security, and compliance. In fact, these historical events are a testament to strength, hard work, innovation, and achievement.
Propelling Diversity in Technology
In ancient times, the idea of women and men working together in each field would have been unprecedented. In today’s world, however, we see women making major advances in technology and men extending their full support wherever required. Leading in all spheres, women serve as role models and set great examples at work. It’s incredible to witness the power that women in cybersecurity, data governance, and compliance hold in terms of making breakthroughs, setting new policies, and taking this field to the next level.
Despite this, according to Cybersecurity Ventures, only 24% of the workforce in cybersecurity is female. Is 24% satisfactory? Absolutely not! We need to encourage more women to pursue fields such as data governance, security, and compliance, as they have now become the backbone and need of any successful business. Innovation and solutions to challenges can only be achieved through a diverse workforce as with diversity comes fresh perspectives and new ideas that can change the status quo. The time has come to train and educate a diverse workforce that is gender-neutral and promises equal opportunities to all.
To attract more women into cybersecurity, we need to set a good example, create opportunities for them to enter and grow within the field, and lead by example. A woman can become involved in this field by networking with other women in the field, uplifting and supporting others, and joining a group run by women for women. Getting motivated to enter this field by studying the journeys of role models can also be extremely powerful.
Leading by Example – Helen Johnson, the 2021 Chief Technology Officer of the Year
Helen Johnson, Chief Technology Officer of the Data Dynamics, exemplifies one such successful woman, working on data governance, security, and compliance, who serves as a role model and mentor to many women trying to break into and succeed in this field. Looking at this tech wonder woman’s career journey is inspiring. Graduating in computer science from Cornell University, she intended to work on Wall Street, developing financial software. So, how did she end up working in data governance, security, and compliance? It all started during the 2008 Financial Crisis when she worked on the Credit Default Swap trading desk. The bank realized that its risk management was siloed during the crisis and that there wasn’t a holistic view of risks across the entire organization. The CIO in charge of trading technology was asked to leave the Front Office to take over the Risk and Finance IT department. Helen was asked to interview for a new position during the moving process, and so the new journey of being the Head of Credit and Market Risk IT for North America began. When asked about her career path, she says humbly, “When I look back through my career, I realize that it was never a deliberate decision to move, nor was I ever looking for a new opportunity. Instead, it was a collection of opportunities that were presented to me. Each move was challenging, as I was not the domain expert, but what was consistent was my determination to learn, willingness to ask for help, dedication to putting in the time required, and recognition that I’m not the expert, which has led me to leverage and surround myself with experts to help me do my job.”
With her success overcoming barriers, she served as an example to women worldwide that hard work, determination, and passion can lead to success in anything. The quality of her work is reflective of her passion and enthusiasm for developing ingenious solutions to existing data security, governance, and compliance challenges. The purpose of her current work is to build a platform that facilitates the understanding of unstructured data, along with how to catalog, manage, and, most importantly, protect and govern it.
Helen’s incredible work was recognized recently when she was named the 2021 Chief Technology Officer of the Year by the Women in Governance, Risk, and Compliance series! Women like these are making a difference in data governance, security, and compliance through their technological innovation and by eliminating barriers. With the world shifting towards gender-neutral careers in each domain, we hope that the disparity in the number of women working in this field will dissolve and that we will have the opportunity to witness more such inspiring career success stories!