Women in Tech: send the elevator back up!

The future is bright, but it will not shape itself. We all have the duty to take part in shaping this future by encouraging, educating and preparing each other and the future (female) workforce. This blog shares 3 key lessons that all women in tech should know.

Mimoent Haddouti
Mimoent Haddouti
Global Head First Line Risk & Security & Chief Information Security Officer
4 minutes
January 19, 2023

I grew up in tech, having worked in the arena for almost 20 years (starting with my law degree but no IT background) coupling my desire to develop with key content education and lots of practice. I’ve learned a lot over the years, and one thing that stayed with me was the importance of having different perspectives. Our society is changing, constantly, and to best serve our customers we need to understand their needs and that of the society they live in; and reflect that throughout our organization.

These needs translated to inclusion and having a safe space for me – being open to allow everyone to be themselves, being respectful of our differences and aware of how those differences can help us excel and achieve more than we can possibly imagine. Striving for this means we can be true to the word ‘team’, and it makes life and work so much more fun!

This thread of thinking is why I sponsor the women* in tech community at the bank, and why I was honored by being chosen to open their Empowerment event themed ‘Unleash Your Potential’. In this blog, I'll share how we addressed this movement by sharing 3 key lessons from the Empowerment event, that all women in tech should know.

1. Break your own bias

I opened the event with a riddle! A man is driving his son to a job interview at a prestigious stock broker firm and as they arrive, his son's phone rang. The son looks at his father and his father says: "Go on, answer it". On the phone was the CEO of the stock trading firm who said "Good luck son, you've got this". The son ends the call and once again looks at his father who is still next to him in their car. I asked the audience: how was this possible?

After many wrong answers it dawned on us that the CEO is his mother – a woman. The real question is why it took us so long to figure that out? Because it’s not so common in today’s world. Only 5% of the Fortune 500 CEOs are women. The same applies to women in information security, who only hold 25% of jobs globally. So in this still male-dominated workspace, there is a lot of room for change, in our minds as well as theirs. This is even more so when it comes to cybercrime. Ransomware is one of the threats for 2023, and even with the global attention cybersecurity has received in the last decade, a major skills shortage persists; a total of nearly 3 million openings in 2022. That’s something we need to address, and an area in which women in tech can and must play a major role.

2. Being yourself at work is worth the risk

To kick-start this process, Ellen Kok-Schut (Lead Change & Implementation at Rabobank) introduced us to her authentic self, and with it, gave us advice on how to make space to learn who you really are and how to show that in the workplace. We should utilize the growth mindset to believe that our own intelligence and talents can be improved and that we are worthy of it, even in the tech and cyber security area.

Showing our authentic self in the workplace, and being vulnerable in the workplace, is worth the risk. It is also a necessity for us all to connect with each other as humans. We shouldn’t see it as a weakness, but rather as a strength; not only for yourself but also for others. We must also remember that once we’ve made it in our chosen field, we should pay it forward by helping others. That mindset, the daring but well worth risk of being yourself and being true to the process and people who helped you get there, is the formula for success, and it also completes the cycle of becoming confident in being yourself.

The low number of women in cybersecurity also illustrates the need for women to network within the field. At Rabobank, we look at how we can connect and support women in cybersecurity by joining specialized groups, attending conferences, furthering our education, exploring new possibilities in cybersecurity, connecting with industry leaders, and finding mentorships.

3. The Open Leadership recipe

I fully agreed with Carrie Carrasco (Director Solution Architects at Red Hat) when she showed us the power of Open Leadership: a recipe for success based on a combination of behaviors and mindsets where transparency, inclusivity, collaboration, community and adaptability are all must-haves! Whether you’re a manager or a leader (not all leaders are managers), you need to learn and practice to a point where it becomes part of our DNA, not just a process to be managed. Opening up to this way of communication and interaction and encouraging and achieving high levels of engagement will in turn provide the right business results! This type of leadership helps us empower each other at every level and essentially unleash our potential as a community, with a shared purpose.

The future is bright for women in tech

The future is bright, but it will not shape itself. We all have the duty to take part in shaping this future by encouraging, educating and preparing each other and the future female workforce. And that includes the cyber security space. The demand is eminent even in this largely male-dominated space. Together, we just need to start unleashing our potential, being our authentic selves, because we are worthy of it. To put that sentiment into practice, I call on all women interested in tech/security to take a look at the job openings currently available (listed below) and join the movement!

*We write women here to include all people that identify themselves as a woman, those who don't like binary gender definitions and anyone else interested in supporting women in tech.

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About the author

Mimoent Haddouti
Mimoent Haddouti
Global Head First Line Risk & Security & Chief Information Security Officer
Mimoent has a wide range of responsibilities related to global cyber security, business continuity, and the risk management within Rabobank’s largest domain Innovation and Technology. She received several awards for her leadership and management style and contributes to creating equal opportunities in society. As one of the founders of the Power4Talent foundation, she is actively involved and committed to reducing the distance to the labour market for MBO students (secondary vocational education).