How to win the diversity battle: “By sharing my qualifications early in a meeting, it changed the entire dynamic of the conversation”
Women are underrepresented in the tech sector —myth or reality? Two years ago, we launched a diversity series aimed at bringing the most inspirational and powerful women in the tech scene to your attention. Today, we’d like you to meet Elizabeth Joyce, Vice President and CISO at Hewlett Packard Enterprise.
A research study by The National Center for Women & Information Technology showed that “gender diversity has specific benefits in technology settings,” which could explain why tech companies have started to invest in initiatives that aim to boost the number of female applicants, recruit them in a more effective way, retain them for longer, and give them the opportunity to advance. But is it enough?
Two years ago, we launched a diversity series aimed at bringing the most inspirational and powerful women in the tech scene to your attention. Today, we’d like you to meet Elizabeth Joyce, Vice President and CISO at Hewlett Packard Enterprise.
Elizabeth Joyce, Vice President and CISO at Hewlett Packard Enterprise
Elizabeth Joyce is Senior Vice President and CISO at HPE. Joyce is responsible for building world-class, extensible security capabilities that protect HPE’s assets and workforce, as well as enable and extend business capabilities. All aspects of information security – strategy, architecture and operations; product security, information and threat management; governance, risk and compliance; third-party assessment; identity and access management; security transformation and training – fall under her purview.
Previously, Joyce was the Chief Information Security Officer for HP’s Software Division, where she was responsible for end-to-end security and infrastructure services. She joined HP through its Autonomy acquisition where she was the Chief Security Officer and Group Operations Infrastructure leader.
Earlier on, Joyce held leadership roles at Iron Mountain as the Senior Vice President for Worldwide Service Delivery in charge of all aspects of post-sale delivery, and, at Symantec as Vice President & General Manager for Enterprise Services – Americas with P&L and operational responsibilities. She started her career as technical consultant for executive information systems, middleware solutions and security in the US and Europe.
Joyce has led large operational and small technical teams, and has successfully executed several turnarounds – improving solutions through innovation and focus on delivery excellence, ensuring customer satisfaction as a priority while meeting profitability targets.
Joyce holds a Ph.D. in information security from University of Plymouth, UK and BSc in Computer Science Honors from University College, Dublin.
What got you interested in technology?
Ever since I was a young girl, I gravitated toward math and science in school, and I even went so far as attending lectures outside of the classroom as a kid. I loved watching science shows on television growing up, which exposed me to new disciplines within science and technology. All of these experiences fueled an interest in robotics, which was almost my chosen college major. But I eventually gained a love for software that led me to study computer science in college. I quenched my curiosity through academia, which eventually led me to explore information and data security.
After college, I did some post-graduate work in Europe which required research into information security, which at the time was a big unknown and was a great academic challenge to myself and my peers. Cybersecurity was largely uncharted territory back then – and I just found the opportunity to apply logical reasoning and different variables to information security such a fascinating and fulfilling challenge. We were facing a new security frontier that posed a threat to global commerce, personal identification, politics, security, healthcare, satellite communications and so much more. The imperative to solve these issues took root and motivated me to pursue information security and cybersecurity as a career path.
At one point, I was part of a security operations team. I remember sitting on the operations floor and somebody taps me on the shoulder and says, “Liz, look up.” We had set up a dashboard using data analytics, and it was the day the Code Red worm hit. The analytics were showing where issues were popping up, and it was like watching the earth turn red, starting in the Asia-Pacific area and spreading across the globe. The scale and impact of what we do really hit me. I realized how much of a difference you could make in battling these real-world problems on a global scale. It’s not only captivating, but there is also the satisfaction of knowing that you’re keeping people safe, and fighting the bad guys.
I have been lucky in my career that I had many people – friends, family, colleagues and mentors/sponsors – who were incredibly supportive. I often viewed experiences more as opportunities than as obstacles because I could deal with them quickly and easily myself.
By sharing my qualifications early in a meeting, it changed the entire dynamic of the conversation and how I was received – so I put the “Dr.” on my business card and never looked back.
Like most women in tech, early in my career, I experienced the issue of being the person responsible for supporting a technical service or system…yet those needing help would walk right by me and up to the “guy” beside me because it was a technical question. That just made me more determined to put my best foot forward and be vocal, but I made sure to always do so with a smile and a positive attitude. In later years, when I was a traveling consultant, I would often turn up at a site or event and be greeted with the reaction: “You’re the security consultant??? That’s an odd job for a woman.” Of course, I didn’t think so. By that time I had earned my doctorate in information security. I learned that by sharing my qualifications early in a meeting, it changed the entire dynamic of the conversation and how I was received – so I put the “Dr.” on my business card and never looked back.
A strong support system
I was lucky to have lots of support from friends and family. No one ever questioned my passion for science – in fact, my parents actively encouraged it. I think my parents were my first and best role models. My dad is incredibly smart and always encouraged me to stretch myself and be the best I could. My mom is the reason I have any EIQ (emotional IQ). She is smart and practical, but really understood people. And both of them drilled into me the principle of respect and justice… Always treat others with respect and accept no less from anyone else. They both had a strong moral compass. That taught me to never judge someone for how they look or talk or where they come from, but understand the person they are and respect that. I believe that is what really set me up to not ever think that I couldn’t do something or achieve things. I might have to work hard at it, but that was just part of the process.
Through the course of my career, I bumped into a few people who thought maybe things were too difficult, or just “not for” me, but I chose not to accept that and continued on anyway.
A day in Elizabeth’s life
I’m the Chief Information Security Officer at Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), where I, with the help of my team, establish and bolster HPE’s vision and strategy to ensure sensitive information assets and technologies are protected. I oversee a large global team of security professionals working to build security architecture, prevent data loss and assess cyber risk and cyber intelligence.
Right now, a huge focus is partnering with the IT team to build and secure our Next-Generation IT (NGIT) infrastructure. NGIT is an intensive nine-quarter IT transformation dedicated to completely revamping and refreshing HPE’s internal IT systems. The goal is to invest in resilient, next-generation systems that can support our evolving business, both now and in the future, and provide better services and experience to our customers, partners and employees. My team partners closely with the IT team to drive the new security architecture and operating model that protects and enables NGIT to operate securely. So currently, much of my workday involves overseeing the team and working with colleagues in IT to ensure everything is going smoothly and we are partnering as needed.
With regard to my typical day, it is always interesting and varied. I usually start checking in with the operational reports to see how things are going, what sort of activities have occurred and if the team are seeing any new threats and how those have been addressed. This acts as inputs into some of the strategic work I do ensuring we are considering the needs of our customers and partners, what new threats are on the horizon, and what we have to provide to enable secure innovation and delivery.
We are also going through our own cyber transformation and are in the process of transforming our operation from a classic reactive SOC (security operations center) model to a new intelligence-driven fusion center model that enables us to be far more proactive in our operation. It is an exciting move that makes use of all the best automation, machine learning and AI capabilities, along with new process and operational models.
None of this is possible without great talent – so time is also spent ensuring we have the right programs to hire, develop and support great talent. Our company also has a big focus on inclusion and diversity, and that is something we remain committed to – ensuring that we truly are bringing all the best and brightest into our team and providing them a challenging and rewarding path in a fast-paced and ever-changing industry.
My greatest personal satisfaction and pride comes from seeing the talent around me and what they accomplish.
And finally we have a company culture that believes in giving back and doing pro-bono work, so I have the privilege of being able to do work that truly is helping others and making a difference – and that is something that myself and my entire team are very proud of.
While I could list many projects that were technically challenging and academically rewarding, I would have to say my greatest personal satisfaction and pride comes from seeing the talent around me and what they accomplish. Seeing someone on the team exceed their own expectations—whether that is technically or in their career progression—is very rewarding. While this is a technical job, it still is all about the people and what they accomplish—and I am honestly inspired by them every day.
Recently, I also helped lead a new initiative at HPE in partnership with the Girl Scouts which I’m quite proud of. Kids today, especially young girls, face risks while navigating the internet and are not learning about safe online habits formally. Together with the Girl Scouts Nation’s Capital—the largest Girl Scouts council in the nation—we just launched a cybersecurity curriculum along with an interactive game called Cyber Squad, designed to fill this gap and teach young basic girls cybersecurity skills and smarts. The curriculum covers fundamental knowledge and best practices across personal information and digital footprint, online safety, privacy and security, and cyberbullying.
As someone who tackles cyber crime by day and goes home to a young daughter at night, I believe it’s important to expose young girls to this information at an early age so they can better protect themselves online. Especially as kids become more mobile, networked and connected, knowing how to create safe passwords or recognize phishing emails is just as important as teaching kids how to cross the street or wear a seatbelt. Beyond that, we also hope that the unique gamified format will get girls interested in STEM by getting them excited about cyber smarts and the digital world. Cybersecurity is a field that has a particularly stark gender gap, with females only estimated to represent as low as 11% of the global cybersecurity workforce. So we really hope this game will open up the possibility of a career in computer science or cyber to girls. As both a Girl Scout cookie mom for my daughter’s troop and a female cybersecurity leader, this launch was such a neat way to see all my passions intersect.
Why aren’t there more women in tech?
The tech industry at large needs to work on minimizing barriers to encourage more women and other underrepresented groups to join the field. It’s important that minorities and women feel as though they’re entering an equal playing field, regarding pay, treatment and respect.
It’s also my belief that beyond barriers, we need to tackle biases, whether those are institutional or social, conscious or conscious. It’s great to talk about and dismantle these systemic hurdles, but the truth is implicit biases and assumptions also have a huge role to play in how we judge and perceive others, which also contributes to the lack of women in tech.
These unconscious biases can be as simple as how teachers and parents unconsciously praise children of different sexes in certain fields or steer them to pick certain toys or subjects in school, to how decision-makers and recruiters at companies and schools review and vet applications and candidates for STEM roles and subjects, to even the language that is used to market certain technology positions. It’s been shown that hiring managers tend to recruit and favor others who are most similar to them, so it’s not surprising that the technology world is so male-dominated – once you’ve established that disparity, it’s hard to equalize it. So looking at both the system and to human biases, and evaluating how we can conquer these is so important for reaching equal representation, whether that’s through greater STEM education or controls for making recruitment and interviewing as objective as it can be.
Women in STEM
I believe that bringing new and diverse outlooks to the table encourages more innovation, and that having more women in STEM will lead to greater innovation across our society, economies and cultures. This is something that we really believe in at HPE – that innovation is borne from a mix of different ideas, world views and perspectives, and experiences. You can’t have innovation when everyone around you looks and thinks the same. You need differences of ideas to drive innovation, collaborative and an inclusive workforce.
So I do believe that if more women work in STEM, there will be a difference, and that difference will be greater innovation in not just STEM, but that this will have ripple effect in every aspect of how we live and work.
Young girls and women need to be able to aspire toward career goals, but it is hard to do that if they can’t see examples and possibilities in front of them.
The discussion about diversity is gaining momentum. How long will it take to see results from the current debate?
I don’t think that is something that I can put a timeline on—it is a big question. But what I will say is that the tech industry is known for being agile and being able to accelerate change – this is one change that I look forward to the industry taking a leadership position in and driving true inclusion and diversity—not just for women, but for all underrepresented groups. We can’t solve or imagine the best future if we don’t bring all the best minds and skills to the table—we will be selling ourselves short.
Young girls and women need to be able to aspire toward career goals, but it is hard to do that if they can’t see examples and possibilities in front of them. If they aren’t exposed to role models in tech or shown pathways to tech, it’s hard to imagine themselves in the field, much less be inspired.
So to cultivate more women in tech, having female role models in senior and very technical positions is important, and ensuring that we open up the pool of candidates is very important. We need to provide girls and women the support and freedom to know that they can pursue their passions, and expose them to strong inspirations that open up technology as a possibility to them.
Tips & tricks
Follow your passion and don’t let anyone dissuade you from that! A tech career can be such a great opportunity—an academic challenge, a place to make a real difference, and something that can be a lifelong passion.
Don’t miss our Women in Tech profiles:
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