The “brainbabe” leadership platform and non-profit brainbabe.org was born out of frustration that “booth babes” still exist. Calling a person a brainbabe isn’t about calling them a “babe,” or about how someone looks. It’s about pushing back on the technology community to look at why we still have “booth babes,” and supporting necessary changes to better attract and utilize women in cybersecurity. For the few of you who don’t like the name—we will change it when booth babes no longer exist!
I was inspired to create brainbabe this past February when I saw an article published about RSA’s “ban”on booth babes. While reading it with my fellow teammates, I said out loud, “Let’s not just talk about the clothes that these women are wearing and ban them—let’s train them! Let’s make them ‘brain babes’.” At that moment, my team and I decided we were going to help make a difference in solving the problem of women leaving tech and also help encourage more women to join the cybersecurity community by creating the non-profit brainbabe.org. My team and I love the name brainbabe because I frequently talk to them about the brain and about making conscious decisions. I find the brain to be very fascinating and so I wanted to highlight decision-making and active thinking with our name.
I’ve worked in the technology industry for twenty-one years and in that time booth babes have always existed. I’ve often wondered why many tech companies don’t train booth babes to actually be knowledgeable about their products and services, but it wasn’t until I read the article from RSA that I was inspired to speak out. Call it the timing of my career, call it frustration, call it a desire to help; it’s certainly a combination all of these things. As a woman who was hired as an entry-level employee with a liberal arts degree and trained to lead sales teams for tech companies, who has been the CEO of a software company, and who is currently the Founder and CEO of a cybersecurity company, I have a lot of content and enthusiasm to offer the tech community about training people—specifically, women.
As I thought more and more about booth babes and the overall lack of women in tech—not to mention the shortage of cybersecurity professionals overall (to the tune of over a million people, and ISC2 reports that only “approximately 10% of InfoSec professionals” are women) — I realized that the following three concepts can make a difference in solving this massive problem:
- Redefining what it means to be in cybersecurity. Instead of only defining cybersecurity roles as high-tech positions, we must consider all the roles that don’t require this skill set in order to get more people involved in the field. We need to speak more about all people joining the cyber community via positions that are not traditionally technical. These roles require “business skills” and have nothing to do with being able to write code or understand network protocols. By redefining what it means to be in cybersecurity we can attract the college graduates who think they wouldn’t be a good fit for cybersecurity jobs because they “aren’t technical.”
- Training, training, and more training. I was trained as an entry-level person and was part of a model that trains entry-level people for non-technical and technical jobs in technology companies. We need more commercial organizations to take responsibility in training—especially consistent training. We need fully thought-out roles and responsibilities that people can work hard at to move up the ladder, along with clear definitions of how to do so. Our military is a good place to mimic: they have training down. You will never hear a military person say, “I don’t know what my role is.” In the commercial space we hear this every day. In my world, training is mentorship!
- Improved communication skills between men and women, among women, and among men. Enhanced soft skills allow for greater retention of employees (both women and men), more revenue and happier work environments. I have seen this work first-hand over my entire career. Some of these imperative soft skills are: how to hold win/win conversations; how to make agreements; how to break agreements; how to take accountability for mistakes and wins; how to have transparency in the workplace; how to lead by example; how to work in a calendar; and the art of listening, among others.
Today, the brainbabe platform is passing on knowledge and communication empowerment by way of speaking events where trained brainbabe ambassadors (both male and female) and myself will share our skills, stories and experiences.
Soon, the brainbabe platform will be hosting free training videos on the skills listed above (and more) at brainbabe.org. These videos are focused on lean language and execution of win/win communication. We will also soon be offering an anonymous message board for women and men to post about the experiences and challenges of working together. We envision brainbabe.org to be a place where anyone can post about his or her work experiences and receive feedback. Awareness seems to be low on the sides of both women and men, so let’s share stories and offer advice in a safe way. Together, we can raise awareness around the challenges we face each day in communicating with one another.
Working together, we can create powerfully positive work environments. We can attract more women into cybersecurity while fostering the lean language, interpersonal and communication skills needed to retain them
Love to you all, Deidre