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Inspiring Inclusion: Make it a Habit

To commemorate International Women’s Day, a chief people officer explores five ways to improve women’s leadership opportunities in the workplace.

By Divya Ghatak

On International Women’s Day, the world celebrates the diverse talents, skills and perspectives that women bring to the workplace and the world. This year’s theme was #InspireInclusion – a fitting call to action for women and allies to continue this journey to enjoy the same rights, opportunities, and impact as their male counterparts. And here are five things that can be done in the year ahead to answer it. 

  1. Cultivate allies.

According to the Women In Cybersecurity Report, women held 25% of cybersecurity jobs globally in 2022, up from 20% in 2019 and 10% in 2013. When looking at women in leadership, the gap is even wider. According to Women in Tech Network, only 5% of leadership positions in the tech sector are held by women. 

Changing this will take an intentional strategy and the collective efforts of committed allies who believe that equity in the workplace drives better business results. Allyship is defined as the practice of helping or supporting other people who are part of a group that is treated unfairly, although one may not be a member of the group. Men are the obvious foundation of a strong ally base, fortified by female leaders who have ascended on their career trajectory in cybersecurity and are committed to taking other women with them on the journey. 

  1. Commit to purposeful talent acquisition and development.

Hope is not a strategy. Hiring managers can’t wish for 50% of female candidates to walk through their doors and expect it to happen. They have to work for it. And it starts with building a diverse interview slate–which can be extremely challenging in tech and specifically cybersecurity. At SentinelOne, the goal is to have the top of the candidate pipeline consist between 50% and 75% women to increase the likelihood of having at least two female finalists. Critically adjacent to this strategy is having at least one woman on the interview panel. 

Sourcing women early in their careers is a great strategy to find female talent, and having an internship program funneled by a university recruiting effort is an effective way to do this, as is partnering with collegiate chapters of organizations like Women in CyberSecurity (WiCyS). 

If HR teams don’t work to develop people and enable them with career opportunities, the competitors will. Losing women to the next opportunity will negate any efforts to bridge the gender gap so keep them engaged and learning while making space for them to grow. Robust learning and development opportunities are critical for all, and maybe even more so for women to make progress. A well-designed career pathing program with defined experiences and skill sets for each level will let women know what needs to be added to their knowledge base to prepare for their next opportunity. 

  1. Provide mentorship opportunities. 

Research shows mentorship is critical in shaping careers, giving women a safe place to ask questions and gain insights that can build confidence and guide them through their career challenges. People often gravitate to similar or like-minded folks, but considering a mentee of a different gender, function, level, or even organization can contribute to the richness of the relationship. Embracing a growth mindset and being conscious of bias can be extremely beneficial on both sides of the equation. 

If an organization does not have a formal mentorship program, advocate for one. If that’s not a feasible option, recruit a female to mentor. Even a thoughtful quarterly conversation can pay dividends for years to come. 

  1. Champion women at all levels.

Making this effort a daily behavior can drive substantial change in workplace culture. Amplifying the women doing great work by giving them credit for their ideas and accomplishments can go a long way in boosting confidence and help strong performers shape their brand.  

Make space for all voices by more inviting women into conversations. Females have a reputation of being risk averse, and oftentimes will sit back and wait for others to speak. 

Asking them to share opinions and ideas is an easy way to build their confidence and inspire sourcing of ideas and solutions that can drive business forward. 

  1. Embrace tough conversations.

Women face a double standard at work that men don’t when it comes to behavior. Men are often described as confident and strong, while women with similar behavior can be described as aggressive or pushy. If someone describes a strong woman in that way, ask if same words would be used to describe a man with similar behavior. If the answer is no, challenge that in the moment. Build the brand of a strong female leaders while stopping the cycle of this double standard. 

Give women the gift of direct, in-the-moment feedback. Communicating with honesty, patience, and kindness makes even difficult feedback a teachable moment that can change the trajectory of a woman’s career.  

International Women’s Day is just a moment for celebration. To close the gender gap in the workplace, action planning and execution needs to be top of mind 365 days a year. Make a commitment, and #InspireInclusion in the workplace and the world. 

Divya Ghatak is chief people officer of SentinelOne. 

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