Sexism isn’t just in infosec

For a while now, people in my industry have been talking about sexism in infosec, and rightly so. Sexism exists in a lot of the world and it’s wrong no matter the location or profession. I started to think about how prevalent it is and I wanted to get some other opinions from women who worked in or dealt with other male dominated fields. I decided to talk with my sister who is a manager for a big-box home improvement store, as well as one of my friends I’ve known for about 20 years who has previously worked in law enforcement, volunteers as a firefighter/EMT, and works as a dispatcher for both.

I gave them the same three questions and asked for their honest opinion of what they see on a daily basis. Here’s what they said:

1) Do you feel that your opinions and contributions hold less weight in your industry or that you’re cast-off or slighted because you’re female?

  • Sister: Every day I see customers walk by a female associate who knows more than the male associate to ask a question only to see the male associate turn to the female associate to find out the answer for them.
  • Friend: While my industry is predominately female, I work closely with a predominately male profession.  I do feel that many of those on the male-dominated side tend to brush off the contributions the female-dominated side provides them.   While at my volunteer position, I feel brushed off frequently because of my gender.

2) Do you think you’ve been passed over for promotions/raises/accolades, etc. solely based on the fact that you’re a female?

  • Sister: No, my management (male & female) pushes me to do more because I care about doing a good job.
  • Friend: In my profession, no.  In my volunteer position, yes.

3) Do you feel that those you work with/for or those you serve harass or flirt with you because they feel that because you’re a female that they can, or feel that they can get you to do something for them?

  • Sister: No, I feel that because they are trying to flirt with me, I can shut them down completely and walk away. It may be diff in technology because there is no immediate cost to the customer.
  • Friend: I am fortunate that I work and volunteer with a group of people that treat me with respect, and that when there is harassment or flirtation it is all in good fun.  I previously worked under a supervisor who treated me as if I were incompetent because I was female. He would send my male co-workers to check up on me and make sure I was doing the job right.  He treated me as if I were his secretary rather than his team member, and I eventually refused to work under him.

While this may not be a norm or even a majority in all professions, there still exists a bias towards male opinions and contributions in many societies and we need to keep talking about it. This post was not meant to downplay the sexism in infosec, rather I want to broaden the discussion and make it more about how we treat the women in our society. They are intelligent and hardworking and deserve our respect. Don’t down play what they offer and they may just teach you something new.

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