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Exposure Creates Perspective

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Blog topics:  Archive


The strength of Indiana is that we bring together a variety of perspectives from the plethora of areas that touch the field of cyber, especially through the Indiana Executive Council on Cybersecurity (IECC). Hence the name "Perspectives From the Field Series" in which we invite experts to discuss the real and challenging issues we are facing in the field and the proposed solutions from the experts to better the lives and businesses of all Hoosiers.

In the second installment of our Series, we celebrate National Women's History Month, commemorating and encouraging the study, observance, and celebration of the vital role of women in American history, and honoring the many contributions made by women to history, culture, and society.

As part of our celebration, Tasha Phelps provides her real-world perspective as an accomplished entrepreneur. She discusses the disparities facing women and minorities in cyber and IT, while, at the same time, offering a different point of view to consider when bringing about greater opportunities for women in workplace development and significantly account for more of the 31,000 jobs that are expected by 2029.

Tasha Phelps

By Tasha Phelps

The journey to entrepreneurship was (and still can be) a difficult challenge. Sometimes the road is smooth; sometimes the road has twists and turns; sometimes the road is an uphill battle! As a black, female, entrepreneur in technology for more than 20 years, I have many stories that I could share that would likely raise eyebrows or even turn smiles upside down, but would, undoubtedly, spark some conversations.

When I started my company in the late '90s, I started as a simple web developer, and "technology" looked nothing like what it looks like today. Everyone needed what I was selling at the time because web development was such a fairly new phenomenon for business. I didn't realize it, but I was on the cusp of a new industry that would totally change the way we communicate and secure information.

Though certified as a Minority Woman-Owned Business (MWBE) and being in technology (it wasn't called "IT" at the time), I typically felt like the outsider in a room, because I was often the only female. I listened to listen, absorb, and respond, but it wasn't until I was asked to speak at the ITEC 2008 Conference here in Indianapolis, that my voice was actually heard. I spoke on Business Continuity and the use of technology to sustain operations -- a conversation about cybersecurity that was just beginning to hit mainstream Corporate America.

Women in technology are out there -- no question, but women in CYBERSECURITY are few and far between. To that point, many organizations and initiatives in Indiana have formed to specifically feature women and offer them an opportunity to convene and discuss ways to grow and increase their visibility:

  • Women & Hi-Tech established in 1999 is an organization that works to recognize women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) fields for their efforts and influence.
  • Indy Women In Tech is an organization designed to inspire women and girls (of all ages) to pursue careers in STEM industries.

One component that hasn't expanded as vastly or as quickly, is the diversity of the women involved. The opportunities and the attention that many have given to inspire young girls to explore careers in STEM exists, but haven't been abundantly successful. In fact, one of the opinion contributors at USA Today published an article suggesting why this is so [read article].

Now that we've been exposed to the numbers and recognize the disparity in women/minority women in cybersecurity (or just technology in general), let's look at this from a different perspective. What can Hoosiers do (men and women) to inspire and encourage young girls to consider STEM careers? Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Become a role model
  2. Volunteer in organizations that specifically target this issue
  3. Share your own story
  4. Help minimize the fear of the industry
  5. Get involved

The disparity of women and minorities in cybersecurity/technology is not insurmountable, and while business and industry begin to address Diversity and Inclusion across the board, those of us in IT can be intentional about addressing the disparities, specifically in technology.

#LetsDoThis! #OneIndiana