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Red Team, Blue Team: the Only Woman On the Team 247

Posted by timothy
from the perspective-shifting dept.
ancientribe writes "Cyber security pro Kerstyn Clover in this Dark Reading post shares some rare insight into what it's like to be a woman in the field. She ultimately found her way to her current post as a member of the incident response and forensics team at SecureState, despite the common societal hurdles women face today in the STEM field: 'I taught myself some coding and computer repair in probably the most painstaking ways possible, but my experiences growing up put me at a disadvantage that I am still working to overcome,' she writes."
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Red Team, Blue Team: the Only Woman On the Team

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  • Blah Blah Blah (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 30, 2014 @02:11PM (#46112241)

    Who cares. Women can do anything men can do, so why is this a big deal.

    Article Summary;

    "I am a woman, therefore I deserve special treatment. All men have it easy because they are men. I have statistics to prove that I deserve special consideration because there are less women then men in certain fields."

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 30, 2014 @02:12PM (#46112259)

    Every geek who is interested in programming taught themselves.

  • by i kan reed (749298) on Thursday January 30, 2014 @02:19PM (#46112335) Homepage Journal

    A universal claim backed by absolutely zero evidence? Why, I never.

  • Re:Blah Blah Blah (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 30, 2014 @02:21PM (#46112347)

    Yeah, I kinda cringed at reading the article. From her being a "goth" in high school to discovering her calling though female characters on CSI and NCIS. It smacks of every other angry loser who entered a security-related career to validate their teenage angst by busting people. Another strong likelihood is that she grew up in a strict family, probably Catholic, and in her childhood rebelled only as much as her parents would let her. Like most of the type, she has likely transferred her notion of overbearing father figure onto the institution of security.

    That being said, females in the field have the potential to be more successful at social engineering/pen-testing due to their sexual charm (see: Russian KGB "Cardinals"), but me saying that would be sexist, so I won't.

    -- Ethanol-fueled

  • by sureshot007 (1406703) on Thursday January 30, 2014 @02:28PM (#46112411)
    From the article: "I taught myself some coding and computer repair in probably the most painstaking ways possible, but my experiences growing up put me at a disadvantage that I am still working to overcome. Throughout college, I was secretly fighting tooth and nail to understand concepts, references, and information that my classmates knew from young ages. From what I can tell, this is not uncommon."

    I was a TA in college for intro CS classes, and I can tell you that not many kids understand this stuff right off the bat. Very few understood it by the end of the first semester. Most were just blindly typing and eventually, the monkeys typed Shakespeare. So, this woman not special. Nor is she special because she is a woman. In fact, I see nothing about her in this article that makes her any different from the thousands of others in the field.
  • by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Thursday January 30, 2014 @02:28PM (#46112415)

    The hurdles are real. If you are not doing what society approves of for your gender/race/age/etc then you will face more problems than if you are conforming to society's expectations.

    And you will have less support.

    Just because the hurdles will be intangible does not make the imaginary. Even the best of the best need a social structure in order to feed themselves and promote their work.

  • by gr4nf (1348501) on Thursday January 30, 2014 @02:30PM (#46112437)
    FTA:

    It's worth noting that a recent study found that only 16% of female characters in movies and TV are shown to hold a job in any STEM field.

    And what percentage of men in movies and TV are shown to hold a job of that kind? I'd be surprised if it was more than 20. No need to invalidate your claims by dropping useless statistics.

    In fact, I think movies and TV do a remarkable job of disproportionately representing women in fields dominated by men in reality.

  • by Gavrielkay (1819320) on Thursday January 30, 2014 @02:34PM (#46112491)
    No wonder you posted AC.

    Women are often attracted to problem solving positions and intellectual pursuits. And hopefully more and more women will quit caring about stereotypes and historically approved gender roles and just get out and do the work and prove themselves. Your ridiculous analysis about what women want or look for in a career makes it a turn off to think about working with people like you who will assume the woman who wants the job must be somehow aberrant.

    I've seen the reverse stereotype more often: the nerdy introverted sexually repressed male who can't string a sentence together when face to face with a customer, but still thinks he's superior because if you lock him in a dark room for 4 days he'll turn out a bit of software that is perfect in its execution except it wasn't what anyone wanted.

    CS is like any other field, there are a lot of different personality types who can carve themselves out a role in which to be a solid contributor. Precious few real world problems get solved solely by the nerd in the basement.
  • Re:evolution (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CCarrot (1562079) on Thursday January 30, 2014 @03:00PM (#46112751)

    So STEM means "I taught myself some coding and computer repair" now?

    Duh no need no education...

    FTFA:

    After four years of school, a couple of internships, and at my present position, I can still count on my hands the number of women that have worked with me in cybersecurity and digital investigation combined.

    And your credentials are...? Sounds pretty reasonable for a 21yo to me...

    Also, why is it that usually intelligent, erudite men often* turn into troglodytes as soon as they find out the person they've been discussing technical topics with is female? Are we that threatening to your sense of self-worth? I can (kind of) understand being concerned about women in some more physical occupation, since without rigorous strength training the average woman generally can't bring the same sheer physical strength to the table as the average man (and I'm talking averages here, not ectomorphic men or mesomorphic women), but in STEM trades there are no such concerns. Women can do just as much mental heavy lifting as men...all it takes is a love for the field, and to kick out the 'show us yer titz' bullies.

    * Often, but certainly not always. There just seems to be a higher proportion of perpetual juveniles in the STEM fields...although I suppose that perception could be due to sampling bias

  • Re:Blah Blah Blah (Score:5, Insightful)

    by girlintraining (1395911) on Thursday January 30, 2014 @03:42PM (#46113093)

    "I am a woman, therefore I deserve special treatment. All men have it easy because they are men. I have statistics to prove that I deserve special consideration because there are less women then men in certain fields."

    The statistics are that women make up nearly 52% of the general population. They make up 53% of all college graduates. Yet they make up an average of just 15% in STEM fields. On average, they make just $58,000 a year compared to $85,000 for men. And while on average, women have been improving their numbers in STEM fields, it's gone the other way in IT; Women received 29.6 percent of computer science B.A.â(TM)s in 1991, compared with 18.2 percent in 2010. Up here in Minnesota where I live, women make up less than 5% of senior IT positions.

    You say "Who cares" and that gets you a big +5, and that should be a big +500 indicator of why the problem is so huge. It's precisely because of attitudes like this. You should care. Right now, some black person out there might have the cure for cancer, but society will never get it because he didn't have the money to finish college. Right now, some woman out there has a solution in her head that'll take CPU performance to the next level because of a radical new way of thinking about the problem, but she went into nursing instead.

    Every time you create an inequality in society, we all lose out. You should care because putting the most qualified person in a position where they can do the most good, benefits all of us more than the unequal way things are done today.

    Do women deserve special consideration? No. Do women deserve equal consideration? Yes! Your post makes it plain exactly what's wrong with our industry: You've confused one for the other, and you don't even see it in your own comments. It's easy for a woman to see, but for a man, if this little microcosm on an internet forum is any indication, it's quite difficult. Nobody until now even pointed out the incongruency.

  • Re:Blah Blah Blah (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SirGarlon (845873) on Thursday January 30, 2014 @03:49PM (#46113175)

    I am a woman, therefore I deserve special treatment. All men have it easy because they are men.

    Have you stopped to consider how your workplace and career would be different if all your instructors, colleagues, and entire management chain were women? And, every time you pointed out that you should not be expected to think and behave exactly like them, they mocked and derided you for "demanding special treatment?"

  • Re:evolution (Score:4, Insightful)

    by CCarrot (1562079) on Thursday January 30, 2014 @04:09PM (#46113449)

    "Women can do just as much mental heavy lifting as men."

    Bullshit because if they could, they would. I think it's pretty naïve to think that while nature made fairly substantially different hardware for substantially different purposes that it loaded exactly the same control software because it got lazy all of a sudden. Now maybe women can perform mental heavy lifting of a different sort but honestly, when they talk about patriarchy, when they talk about barriers to entry that they (for lack of understanding) call "bias," what they really mean is "our brain processes don't fit into these fields created and run by male thought processes." The proof to the fallacy of your statement is your statement needing to be made in the first place. Women can't do as much (male type) mental heavy lifting as men because if they could they would and if they were, they wouldn't be complaining about the difficulty of competing in male intellectual endeavors. The "bias" they perceive is the bias of the square peg not fitting in the round hole.

    Classic example of confirmation bias. It is *precisely* attitudes like these that present the 'bias' that you openly scorn. "If they could they would, but you simply can't darling, so try to find some nice steno work and leave us men to do all the thinking, mm'kay? Or better yet, go have some babies, because you know your biological clock is ticking away...here, let me help you with that, I have a couple of minutes before my next meeting..."

    You can't tell me that a manager who carries your type of attitude is not going to be more critical of female employees than male ones, and more resistant to promoting them or acknowledging their achievements on par with their male counterparts. If acknowledgement does come, it's more in line with "oh wow, that's very good work for a girl! Good job!" Yeah, screw that. Perhaps your mental hole needs a dremel.

  • Re:Blah Blah Blah (Score:4, Insightful)

    by girlintraining (1395911) on Thursday January 30, 2014 @04:10PM (#46113461)

    Care to spell out the laws that prohibit them from entering the field?

    I wasn't aware that the law was the only way someone could be discriminated against. Thanks for reminding me of that. I retract all previous statements. We licked that whole racist problem the day we made it illegal. Nothing to see here, move along.

    And your hypothetical example of "OMG A PERSON IN THE RIGHT POSITION COULD BE DOING SOMETHING" is flat-out horrible.

    Yes, I can understand how judging people on the basis of the abilities, instead of their sex organs, could be a confusing concept to some.

    Seriously, where does that point of yours even go? Have everyone master every single profession, just so we can be sure we're not missing on any talent?

    When we judge people only by the strength of their contributions, and give them equal opportunity to pursue the fields of their choice, then we have met our social obligation. But until our expectations of others are truly equal, any answer to this question will simply reflect our own prejudices.

  • Re:Blah Blah Blah (Score:5, Insightful)

    by girlintraining (1395911) on Thursday January 30, 2014 @04:12PM (#46113479)

    If women make up the minority in one field, then they make the majority in another.

    Yes, well... I suppose if Job A makes $100,000 a year and Job B makes $20,000 a year, if 50 people from Group A are in Job A, and 50 people from Group B are in Job B, then we have no reason to suggest that something could be amiss here.

  • by Jiro (131519) on Thursday January 30, 2014 @04:18PM (#46113541)

    1) Women generally are less willing than men to do things that result in them becoming social outcasts as a youth. This will lead to a lot fewer girls doing things that lead them to STEM jobs later in life.
    2) Women are a lot less willing to take jobs with low satisfaction and high working hours in order to get high pay. CS-related jobs, of course, tend to be like this. This effect is made even bigger by the fact that it's still, even in these liberated days, a lot more acceptable for the man to be the primary breadwinner, allowing the woman more freedom to choose a lower-paying but more satisfying job.

  • Re: Blah Blah Blah (Score:4, Insightful)

    by TWiTfan (2887093) on Thursday January 30, 2014 @04:39PM (#46113765)

    I guess the closest analogy would be being a straight male and announcing to your friends that you're going to become a fashion designer or hairdresser. It might get you some pretty strange looks from your bros.

  • Re: Blah Blah Blah (Score:4, Insightful)

    by grunthos (574421) on Thursday January 30, 2014 @04:53PM (#46113909) Homepage

    Scared to be interested in computers? Seriously?

    Yes, seriously.

    By and large, it is quite generally true that most women experience the world differently than most men. This includes specifically the emotional factors. Of course we all have emotions, but there are significant differences in how men and women generally experience and are shaped by them.

    Frankly thinking like that seems 100% alien to me

    Well, yes, of course it would.

    Normal male response, whether Slashdot or elsewhere: "she didn't react to situations like I would, so obviously she needlessly did it the hard/stupid way. If she did it the way I would have, she wouldn't have had any problems."

    Perhaps our "obvious" normal male response isn't actually helpful for people who aren't the same, don't experience the world the same way, and perceive situations differently.

    Time to learn from that flash of insight.

  • Re:Blah Blah Blah (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Tom (822) on Thursday January 30, 2014 @05:31PM (#46114373) Homepage Journal

    Right now, some black person out there might have the cure for cancer, but society will never get it because he didn't have the money to finish college. Right now, some woman out there has a solution in her head that'll take CPU performance to the next level because of a radical new way of thinking about the problem, but she went into nursing instead.

    You had a point until that part of total bullshit.

    People don't get born with the cure to cancer embedded in their mind, waiting to be unleashed. If she went into nursing, she won't have that solution in her head, because coming up with that solution requires studying computer science and not health. And the guy who didn't finish college won't have the cure for cancer, because it requires tons of medical knowledge to figure it out.

    Your argument basically says "if I had bought a lottery ticket, I would be a millionaire" - and we all know that is total crap, because you didn't and you aren't and that's that, period.

    Do women deserve special consideration? No. Do women deserve equal consideration? Yes!

    Then stop throwing meaningless statistics around, because correlation != causation. Any actual example of actual discrimination - you have my support to fight that. But fewer women is not evidence of discrimination. There's also jobs with fewer men. Heck, I'm pretty sure there are very few jobs with a precise 50/50 distribution. Sure, blame culture, but there are no actual barriers of entry anymore. Nobody is turning women away at the university gates. I'll agree that there are soft factors, most of them in society and not companies. Stuff like telling girls that math is for boys, etc.

    I don't doubt these factors exist. But the whining about discrimination where none exists is causing what you wrongfully label as incongruency. It isn't. It's a backlash against false accusations. I personally am really tired of being labeled an oppressive pig because of my gender - that's discrimination, too. Just when feminists do it, it's apparently ok.

    I don't think there's anything wrong with our industry, though I'm quite sure there are things wrong with individual managers or even whole companies, sure. But the way you and others put it, it sounds like we are all guilty until proven innocent, and that is what gets you the backlash. Because humans hate being falsely accused of wrongdoing.

  • Re:Blah Blah Blah (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Darinbob (1142669) on Thursday January 30, 2014 @05:46PM (#46114551)

    She never asked for special treatment.

    Yes but this is Slashdot, a mixture of misogyny and failure to read the actual articles.

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