Hacking tech’s gender gap to unlock a more diverse cyber workforce

Even as the percentage of women in cyber fields has doubled in the past decade, some estimates still suggest their share of the workforce is as low as 20%. Peraton is committed to ensuring the next generation of cyber professionals will be working in a more dynamic, inclusive environment.

Peraton partners with some of America’s top universities in our advanced R&D efforts—but we also devote significant resources to on-campus recruiting and workforce development.

Recently, we were a sponsor of HackViolet, a 24-hour hackathon hosted by The Association of Women in Computing at Virginia Tech, a student-run, non-profit organization. A hackathon is an innovative event where teams work on developing tech projects during a limited time. More than 300 students came together to hone their cyber skills during a weekend of tech-focused innovation and camaraderie.

The event also provides a venue to explore the gender gap in technology, the obstacles females and minorities face in these workplaces, and how to become part of the necessary change. While HackViolet is a female-empowerment event, it brings together people of all genders to show that tech can be an inclusive space that celebrates women and other minorities.

“Participating in events like HackViolet is critical to demonstrating that tech and cyber jobs are open to everyone,” said Jim Schifalacqua, Peraton’s Chief Information Security Officer, who delivered the event’s closing address. “These are challenging, rewarding jobs that can lead to exciting and dynamic careers. The students I met are innovators who will be our leaders in the public sector and protect our national security. They are tomorrow’s competitive edge.”

Events like HackViolet stress the importance of mentorship and can often include frank talk about the unique challenges women face in the workplace, especially in the tech sector.

“I’ve seen studies that show women, in particular, do not apply for jobs unless they see themselves as close to a 100% fit for it,” said Rebecca McHale, Peraton’s Chief Information Officer, during a virtual panel at the 2022 HackViolet event. “That stresses me out because no one is a 100% fit.”

“From my experience, you get so much more out of somebody that may only be at that 50% mark—or even less—but is humble, hungry to learn, and willing to work hard. All of those skills make somebody so much more well-rounded than someone focused on meeting every requirement on their resume.”

Will increased awareness, and more programs like HackViolet, help to balance tech’s workforce disparity in the future? McHale hopes so.

“I’ve seen the increased attention, and it helps,” she said. “I’ve seen more women coming in as applicants, but it’s not enough. Right now, I’m a female overseeing a team that’s still predominantly male and it can sometimes feel like we haven’t scratched the surface of what we need to do—but it’s getting better. It’s incumbent on all of us to support each other in that.”

Peraton is a leader in diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) and committed to creating deeper relationships with underrepresented communities in tech through sponsorships and support of Dakota State University’s CybHER security institute, the Black Engineer of the Year Awards (BEYA), and numerous other events.

These outreach initiatives help develop a more diverse pipeline and reinforce the message to those communities that diversity is important to the company and its employees.

Visit careers.peraton.com for all open job opportunities at Peraton.

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