CyberSN, and Deidre Diamond all stand with Black Lives Matter. The treatment of humans is a topic I am in everyday, as many of you are aware. I talk with you about words and behaviors at work that cause problems and or that can make cultures better so that our community can have happiness at work. I enjoy being in this conversation with you all tremendously. I want to share a personal story with you now so that we can be authentic in conversation, while around us all, our communities are hurting. I hope my personal story helps.

The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement is about human treatment being equitable and human actions being equally accountable, with greater consequences than job dissatisfaction. I am the Founder and CEO of CyberSN and Secure Diversity. I self-funded these businesses from my own hard work, no investors, just risk and a strong desire to create a work environment that people loved. I represent the 1% of Women in Technology that are founding CEOs. I am in my late forties and I have white skin. My biological father is a first-generation Engineering immigrant from the Middle East, my mother is from Pennsylvania and of English descent. I had the honor of having Tommy, a black man, as a stepfather starting at age six. Tommy was a hairdresser in LA, when he met and married my mother. My mother, a white woman who was an LA City School Teacher for forty years and owned hair salons with my step father Tommy after they married. This wonderful man Tommy, passed on from earth just before I graduated college, I think about him all the time and I wish he could see what I have accomplished with others. I cook with his skillet still to this day and have taken it with me through many moves around the US. This man is a HUGE piece of who I became as an adult and a Leader. I love him, and for him and others I stand with BLM.

Tommy moved to live with myself, my mom and my brothers in Orange County, California in the late seventies. I remember him quietly saying while we were driving and listening to music, “most people don’t want me around here” or “I am so happy you don’t have to deal with what I deal with”.  At the time, being so young, I didn’t understand.  “Why wouldn’t Tommy be wanted here?” I thought, “I am so lucky to have him, he is kind, he loves music, he sings with me, he loves mood lighting and always makes our home feel calm, he loves eating and takes me to awesome ethnic restaurants.” Why? Tommy was always kind and never said anything bad about anyone, I loved him for that every day! Why wasn’t he wanted? I could not comprehend.

Time gave me answers to my questions. Questions that should never have to be asked. I mourn for the black men and all humans who have experienced discrimination, for Tommy, for equality of all humans. I pray for leadership to find solutions now, not tomorrow. I pray for extreme change to our laws now, not tomorrow. I vote and I serve and I pledge to never forget that all humans want the same things in life and no human should be treated differently than another human under any circumstances. I know you stand too and that we are together standing.

Tommy was the one who told me at age 6 and onward, “you are a leader” and “people love to follow you, do good with that”.  He told me “you can do anything you want”. He never stopped saying positive empowering things to me.  At the age of 9, Tommy and my mother had me running the front desk appointment setting, collecting customer payment, making bank deposits and cleaning the salon after hours; every weekend!  I became business savvy before 10 because of this man.  I was then and I am now, fearless and Tommy is a key reason.  I hear his kind words about me in my head all the time.  There is no greater gift than to give a child positive affirmations. While I have a wonderful father, who is very involved in my life, it was even more wonderful to have two Dads to love me. Tommy was and is my Dad too.

I am heavy hearted knowing there are so many Tommys out there being mistreated. So many men and women with black skin are being treated poorly, imprisoned and murdered for reasons white people are not imprisoned or murdered for, because of the color of their skin. All of this has to stop. I think about how Tommy didn’t care what color my skin was, or that I had a father or that I was a girl. He loved me unconditionally and cared for me daily, all while he endured discrimination for the color of his skin. All while he was being a father to a white child. Not only do I stand with Black Lives Matter, I live my life with no tolerance for discrimination. I do not tolerate discrimination at our companies or in any of my relationships.  My heart breaks for what is happening in our country, and I plan to make sure things change. Love to everyone and thank you for letting me share this story.

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The inability for companies to attract a diverse range of candidates is an underlying current to today’s broader cybersecurity staffing crisis. In fact, close to half of security insiders today believe that the underrepresentation of women and minorities stands as a major factor contributing to the current shortage of skilled security workers.

Anti-discrimination laws and cultural norms have largely pushed out the most overt cases of discrimination to the periphery of the industry. However, even with obvious bias isolated to the edge cases, what we’ve seen left behind are traces of unconscious bias that nevertheless hamper the industry. Unconscious bias has a way of creeping into even the organizations most gung-ho for diversity, keeping their cybersecurity teams from bringing in new kinds of people and their fresh perspectives for problem-solving.

One recent placement I worked on demonstrated to me exactly what this kind of bias looks like in action—and it was from a friend who I know to be fair and thoughtful. I was helping this executive fill a role to which he’d hoped to bring some diversity. As such, my team had provided an extra helping of women and minorities to a well-qualified candidate list. Needless to say, I was surprised to hear he ended up hiring a non-diverse candidate for the position.

As I got him to rewind the process for me, he told me that when the women on the list were asked why they were interested in cybersecurity, they didn’t bring enough ‘passion’ to the answer. While the man’s answer had more to do with personally seeing the problems in the industry that he wanted to fix, the women tended to relate stories about family members having their identities stolen and how that spurred an interest in the industry that protects people from those experiences. For the hiring manager, the way the man answered resonated as more ‘passionate.’ But looking at it from an outside perspective, it looked more like the man simply provided an answer that most closely matched my friend’s own worldview of professional enthusiasm. What he failed to see is that the sources of passion and work ethic can vary greatly by background.

What he ended up with is another non-diverse candidate, rather than a person with a wealth of new views that could have helped to round out his team. And this is really the crux of the diversity problem we face in the cybersecurity industry. The whole point of bringing in more women and minorities into teams isn’t to meet some quota. It’s to nurture a team-building mindset that attracts a range of people with totally different backgrounds who can bring fresh ways of tackling problems. This establishes a team dynamic where you’ve got a multifaceted way of attacking things. This is huge in security, which is so dependent on creative problem solvers.

In order to root out unconscious bias, we need to start listening for the answers we’re expecting from candidates and also the equally good answers that challenge our expectations. And achieving a bias-free workplace doesn’t end at the offer letter—not by a long shot. We’ve also got to think about how unconscious bias keeps us from retaining those underrepresented folks. As leaders, we need to take a hard look at the kinds of team-building exercises we do and about the kind of work atmosphere we promote. Let me know your ideas, advice, tips, or tricks to help further unbiased hiring. I’d love to hear from you.

It’s going to be a great year for diversity at RSA Conference 2016! Several crowd sourced sessions and speaker topics are scheduled which will prompt discussions around the issue of the lack women in tech and cybersecurity. These topics, along with groups and panels, seem to show that this issue is going mainstream at #RSAC this year. CyberSN and #brainbabe both have a vested interest in seeing the diversity conversation come to the forefront at tech conferences, RSA in particular, because the name of our not-for-profit organization was born out of a frustration that booth babes still exist. These “babes” are a large percentage of the women at tech conferences, and yet the discussion about their presence so far has been about “banning” their outfits (a subject we wrote about last year), rather than recruiting and training them, which would help us expand the amount of women in technology professions! You can read more about this subject in “Why #brainbabe,” a blog by Deidre Diamond, Founder and CEO of CyberSN and Founder of

Within our own company, we are seeing an awesome swell of support surrounding the topic of women in tech and cybersecurity. For the second year, RSA held public voting on Crowdsourced Submission Topics to round out their schedule with topics from the cybersecurity community, and the call for speakers was open to the public. From all the submissions received, the judges chose 35 of them to compete for 17 speaking spots and Deidre’s talk was chosen as a finalist. Since a version of this article was originally published, she has officially been selected to speak! Her talk “From pigtails, to prom, to a cyber career: what about your daughter?” will be shared at RSA Conference 2016 on Tuesday March 1 in Room 130 North from 1:10-2:00pm. If you plan on attending the conference, we hope you will check it out. Deidre will be speaking about encouraging women to consider careers in tech that they otherwise might not think about choosing. A major obstacle in getting more people into tech is the perception that one must be technical to be a part of the profession–but the major of all cybersecurity roles are actually not technical. We can empower more people to join the community by expanding our definition of what it means to be “in tech.” Her inclusion in the program, by popular demand, proves that people are seeking out topics about how and why we can empower women in cyber security.

If you are looking for ways to join the diversity conversation while at RSA this year, here are some suggestions:

  • On Monday, February 29th, you should go see, “Should I Stay or Should I Go? How to Attract/Retain Women in the Industry,” with panelists from (ISC)2, AIG, Optiv, Booz Allen Hamilton and HP. This topic is encouraging as it means the biggest companies in the world are finally embracing the need to address this national security problem.
  • In addition to Deidre’s talk, which is Tuesday at 1:10 in Room 130N, there is also a session titled: “A Fitness Test for Fostering Women Leaders in IT Security” which sounds like it will be a great talk.
  • Returning this year, happening on Wednesday evening, March 2nd, is the “Executive Women’s Forum Meet & Greet” where women attending RSA can enjoy a “fun, relaxed, and professional get together.”
  • Thursday, CyberSN and #brainbabe are hosting an event at Bespoke (only 6 minutes from the Moscone Center) and we would love to have you join us to find out how you can help us be part of the solution.

In closing, I must also highlight a group called Equal Respect, which is “a grass root initiative that promotes open and respectful environments at professional events,” that is planning to have a presence at RSA this year. They call for events that, “prohibit and discourage promotional or marketing behaviors that disrespect groups of attendees based on gender, race, sexual orientation, religion, or ethnicity,” and we at and are proud to be co-sponsors of their presence at RSA Conference 2016. It is groups like Equal Respect that will help raise awareness and overcome the obstacles that are keeping more women from joining the cybersecurity community.