Throughout history, women have been fighting for the ability to pursue their dreams and a major part in this pursuit has been the fight to be able to participate in the workforce. Women started heavily joining the workforce during 1954-1980; Currently, 57% of adult women are a part of the labor force, and that number continues to grow. While this shows great progress for women determined to have careers, the mathematical and technical industries are still heavily male-dominated.
One industry that many are aware of this gender gap is I.T., with women only making up a mere 26% of the available positions. This statistic is surprising because the cyber-world itself is struggling to fill positions with qualified individuals. By 2020, it is predicted that there will be 1.4 million jobs available in computing-related fields, however, U.S. graduates are on track to fill only 29% of those jobs, with women filling just 3%. Though this may seem disheartening, major companies like Apple, Google, and Microsoft are actively working to promote increases diversity in companies, as they recognize that the majority of workers in technology are white males. Studies show that hiring women in IT roles is beneficial to businesses, as tech companies with women in leadership positions have a 34% higher return on investment than their counterparts. This, coupled with the fact that 35% of young people interested in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) careers are girls, with that number growing increasingly each year, shows that there is hope for more women being a part of the future of technology.
Axiom Cyber Solutions President, Shannon Wilkinson, is featured on the cover of the latest issue of Las Vegas Woman Magazine as being a woman of importance in the Las Vegas community, as a business owner, woman in IT, and as an example of a successful woman (read the full cover story here). In honor of her being both featured on the cover of Las Vegas Woman, as well as being an influential woman in IT, we decided to delve a little deeper into her experience in the technology world, what has aided in her success, and what she has to say to women with a similar career goal in mind.
How did you get into the IT field?
“The first time I used a computer was when I was in 5th grade and it was the beginning of my attraction to technology. My classroom received a donation of a computer and we were allowed to skip recess to use the computer and I spent many an afternoon waiting my turn to use the computer. Later in life, in college as I started to think about what I wanted to do as a career when I graduated, I realized that my idea of being a lawyer probably was not right for me and I should do something that I’ve always loved because I am a firm believer in the phrase “if you find a job you love, you’ll never work another day in your life” and the rest is history!”
What motivates you?
“I like to solve problems through the use of technology. America’s businesses are under constant attack by cybercriminals but for many, cybersecurity is a difficult and expensive endeavor. Through Axiom’s automated, intelligent, and innovative Threat Protection Platform that sits behind our firewalls, we are able to extend cybersecurity protection to all businesses that is easy to use and affordable.”
Do you find that you are treated the same as men in the industry?
“I personally have never felt any difference from being a female in the technology field. I’ve never accepted the idea that I couldn’t be successful in the technology field because I was female. I didn’t let the fact that I struggle with math due to numlexia (dyslexia of numbers) stop me from pursing a university degree that required advanced mathematics because that meant giving up on myself and my dreams.”
What woman/women inspire(s) you?
“Both my mom and step-mom (who I just call Mom as well) both have inspired me throughout my childhood and adult life. By watching them dedicate their lives to their careers, I gained a respect for hard-work and witnessed the power of confidence in self. It is through seeing them be successful in life that I learned that there is nothing that can hold me back except myself. I had to believe in me before anyone else would.
If I had to pick a historical figure, I would pick Eleanor Roosevelt as one of my favorite quotes comes from her. “No one can make you feel inferior without your permission.” Again, that speaks to me about having confidence and trust in yourself.”
What is your favorite part about your job?
“I enjoy trying to find new ways to solve old problems so in short, the innovation. Our ransomware algorithm arose out of a company discussion about how to help stop the rising flood of ransomware attacks that were crippling businesses. We knew that there had to be a better way to stop ransomware and it took about two days but we came up with a way to stop ransomware from activating through an algorithm that lives in each of our devices.”
What advice do you have to young women considering a career in an IT-related field?
“Don’t play into the nay-sayers that will tell you that your gender will somehow prevent you from being wildly successful. Believe in yourself and your abilities. If something is hard, work at it harder. Never give up on yourself.”
As you can see, Shannon Wilkinson and women such as herself can do anything they set their minds to, both within the IT world and beyond. Though statistics on women in technology may be intimidating, it is clear that with the right attitude, determination, and perseverance, your gender nor any other factor will stand in the way of your success. If you’re interested in learning more about cybersecurity and what it takes to be in the field, please visit https://axiomcyber.com/.
Hailey R. Carlson | Axiom Cyber Solutions | 11/18/2016