The RSA Conference won’t begin until April 16 in San Francisco, but it has already come under fire for its current keynote speaker line-up. Of the 20 scheduled keynotes, only one will be by a woman: Monica Lewinsky, an anti-bullying advocate in the aftermath of the President Clinton impeachment scandal.
When questioned by Axios, organizers of the RSA Conference said: “This year, RSA Conference will feature more than 130 female speakers tackling everything from data integrity to hybrid clouds to application security, among other topics.” According to them, 20% of their overall speakers will be female, although they will be in less prominent roles.
In a separate statement to USA Today, RSA Conference organizers were quick to mention that the keynote schedule is not final. They then blamed the patriarchal structures in tech fields for their deficiency: only 11% of cybersecurity positions around the world are held by women.
The RSA Conference is one of the largest cybersecurity conferences in the world, but it is not the first technology conference to receive due criticism for its lack of gender diversity. Electronics show CES, which took place in January, was lambasted for having a keynote line-up consisting entirely of men.
We’ve written before on the growing staffing issue in cybersecurity—a crisis exacerbated by the arbitrary and deeply unequal gender gap in the industry. If we do not become more inclusive, we will find it harder to innovate and communicate with consumers and enterprises alike.
But Google Engineering Director Parisa Tabriz said it best: “If you’re building security and privacy for everyone, you have to account for a huge spectrum of people’s circumstances and concerns about their data. You also need to take advantage of the full spectrum of talents and perspectives available if you want to come up with the best solutions. Today, women and other marginalized groups are regularly underrepresented across the industry. We have to do better.”
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