This blog is a response to a comment made on LinkedIn regarding a conference I spoke at recently, BSides Calgary 2017. I felt strongly about it, and felt the need to post a longer response than LinkedIn allowed in their comment field.
Thank you for your time here.
My name is Shelly Giesbrecht, I’m “nerdiosity” to my friends, I’m a woman in tech, and I spoke at BSides Calgary this year.
I began this blog as a short response to the post by Ms. Smibert about the lack of representation of women in the speakers at BSides Calgary this year, but it quickly became too long to be just a comment.
To begin, I have the greatest respect for Ms. Smibert. However, I feel that her comment about BSides Calgary was, at best, misinformed, and at worst, unhelpful. Misinformed because I taught at BSides Calgary this year, and unhelpful because the InfoSec community in Calgary is still in its infancy compared to other places, and needs to be built up not torn down.
Ms. Smibert’s comment “The fact an event couldn’t find a single woman to speak (have they tried?) is the reason why I will not show up” is what I find most problematic. BSides Calgary, as I understand it, did not receive any submissions for talks from women for this year’s conference. (Note: I chose to submit a training session, not a conference talk this year) Is this a failure on BSides Calgary’s part? Some might argue yes, and I believe that Steve and the team will likely look at ways to better encourage and promote female speakers next year.
That said, I believe this is a larger failure, so bear with me while I explain:
When I was 11…15…20…25, I honestly didn’t know that the job I do now even existed. No one, man or woman, told me that a talent for fixing things, solving puzzles, using computers and reading everything I could find would lead me to one day become the team lead of Incident Response for one of the largest security companies in the world. I have been very lucky along the way to have some incredible mentors, both men and women. I find myself in a position in life where I feel blessed to be able to affect others in a positive way.
But when we hire, we don’t see enough resumes from women. And when I speak at conferences, there are still too few women in the audience.
So how do I choose to change this? I show up.
I show up by submitting talks and training sessions to conferences in hopes that by seeing me speak, another woman who is passionate about her craft but nervous about trying might be inspired to try.
I show up by speaking at Career Day at my local high school so that young women can see what is possible.
I show up by blogging about work I’m doing to share my passion for what I do.
Last year, I showed up at the first BSides Calgary, alongside other highly talented and bright women, to speak. In the last year, I also spoke at the SANS DFIR Summit, I facilitated a panel at the Calgary ISC2 Congress, taught at Cisco Live, and blogged for the Cisco Security blog.
But I obviously didn’t do enough. And neither did Ms. Smibert, nor did every person that “liked’ her post. We cannot simply say “BSides Calgary is at fault” because there are no women speakers. We need to show up. For every talented, bright woman who liked the comment but didn’t submit a talk, for every leader who commented positively but didn’t encourage the talented, bright women on your team to submit a talk, I challenge you to show up next year.
We can bring change to the numbers of women in tech by being visible, by letting females from 5 years old on up know what is available and possible.
Does this solve all the problems women face in tech? Absolutely not. We have much work to do, and need more allies to achieve it.
I plan to make 2018 a bigger year personally for ‘showing up’ in hopes of inspiring more women to submit talks not just to BSides Calgary, but to talk, teach or write about whatever fuels their passion. Please join me.