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Women in security: Charting an InfoSec career path

Information security has long been a male-dominated profession, but the industry may begin to see more women in security in the near future.

"I think the big thing to point out is that only 10% of the people that work in IT security are women [according to a recent (ICS)2, Inc., survey]," said Angela Knox, engineering director at Cloudmark Inc., a San Francisco-based network security vendor. "I personally find the role really exciting and interesting; and I think more young women, as they're going through college, should consider it as a career."

Knox participated in a panel discussion at RSA Conference 2015 about the changing role of women in security. In this interview with SearchSecurity, she discussed how the industry can encourage young women to pursue an InfoSec career.

Specifically, Knox said that having public discussions with women in security -- like the one at the RSA Conference -- can help educate and inform young women about the potential of an InfoSec career.

In addition, Knox said IT security is often viewed as a "dark" career, which couldn't be further from the truth. Changing the public image of the InfoSec profession, she said, could greatly benefit women. "The work I do involves putting together a lot of pieces of puzzles about what malicious actors are doing, and how they're all working together as an economy -- and it's very interesting," she said.

Knox said she didn't set out to become an IT security professional; she became interested in technology by watching TV shows like Star Trek at an early age and later got into software development in college. But while working on software, she discovered she had a strong interest in security issues and began to pursue an InfoSec career.

"I wasn't really going after it as a career, but once I got into it, I realized how interesting it was," she said. "One thing I'd really encourage for women or girls that are in high school is … to also look at math and computer science as possible options for a pro career."

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In your view, is the number of women in security growing?
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I have no idea. I know that the security industry is growing, but I still  consider it something of a niche. She mentions that she didn't set out to become an IT security professional. She had some exposure at some point, and become interested.

During my education and early career, I personally had no exposure to security. I think that will change as the companies continue to focus on security and the demand for those professionals climbs.
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I like learning of the personal experiences and career paths of different women in IT. Each person comes from a different background and brings a unique perspective. It sounds like Ms. Knox has made a very successful career for herself in an area she loves, and I appreciate that she is sharing her story and encouraging other women to consider a career in security.
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