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Afternoon Cyber Tea: Cybersecurity challenged to meet diversity goals

  • Ann Johnson Corporate Vice President, SCI Business Development

Organizations often know they need to identify and address their cybersecurity blind spots. They also know the technology exists to help them do that. However, they don’t often understand how to communicate this need within their organization to justify the expense, nor do they know how to share with employees how they may be impacted.

When I spoke with Jules Okafor on an episode of Afternoon Cyber Tea with Ann Johnson, she shared how she has seen many cybersecurity projects fail not because of the technology put in place, but rather, the organization’s inability to communicate responsibilities or the expected results. One of the biggest pitfalls is the result of a very good intention when a new technology is excitedly implemented before developing a process.

Jules Okafor, JD, is the Founder and CEO of RevolutionCyber, a full-service privacy information security awareness and marketing communications firm, and the former Senior Vice President of Global Security Solutions for Fortress Information Security. Jules also advocates for greater diversity and inclusion in the cybersecurity industry. During our discussion, she shared how she believes the industry has been insulated from discussions about race because the focus has been on protecting companies from cyberattacks without the lens of futureproofing against biases. Companies can and should be doing more, including sharing examples of technology bias with the public, assessing their own practices to check for unintended bias, and listening when employees approach management and human resources with concerns. Many accomplished women and people of color are leaving the industry because they don’t feel heard.

In the real world, bias and racism are costing people their lives. In the online world, bias in technologies, like facial recognition software, can be detrimental. While on a recent Slack channel conversation where a participant mentioned a product that promised to let you undertake diversity and inclusion work via text message, she thought, “This is the problem.” This experience suggests that people are trying to automate complex, multi-generational problems to satisfy compliance. Until his death, civil rights activist and leader John Lewis was all-in when it came to fighting racial injustice and bias. Until people in the cybersecurity industry are all-in to that extent, there won’t be much change.

During our conversation, we also spoke about how a Craigslist post started her cybersecurity career and strategies to effectively sell cybersecurity solutions. One aspect of her job she especially enjoys is making the technical understandable to non-technical people. This can be a missing piece for some technology companies, too. Many are overly focused on building tools rather than on addressing business challenges. Most successful cybersecurity is invisible to most people, so purchasing technology becomes a tangible way to justify their role. To learn steps to take that show your company cares about becoming more diverse and solving business problems, listen to Afternoon Cyber Tea with Ann Johnson: Fortifying security strategies with a cyber mindset on Apple Podcasts or PodcastOne.

What’s next

A new season of Afternoon Cyber Tea with Ann Johnson will launch on June 15, 2021. In this important cyber series, I talk with cybersecurity influencers about trends shaping the threat landscape and explore the risk and promise of systems powered by AI, IoT, and other emerging tech.

You can listen to Afternoon Cyber Tea with Ann Johnson on:

  • Apple Podcasts: You can also download the episode by clicking the Episode Website link.
  • PodcastOne: Includes the option to subscribe, so you’re notified as soon as new episodes are available.
  • CISO Spotlight page: Listen alongside our CISO Spotlight episodes, where customers and security experts discuss similar topics such as Zero Trust, compliance, going passwordless, and more.

To learn more about Microsoft Security solutions, visit our website. Bookmark the Security blog to keep up with our expert coverage on security matters. Also, follow us at @MSFTSecurity for the latest news and updates on cybersecurity. Or reach out to me on LinkedIn or Twitter if you have guest or topic suggestions.