Meet The Female Founders Reshaping The Male-Dominated Cybersecurity Industry – Forbes

Only 24% of cybersecurity employees, and just 11% of the C-suite executives, are women.
The recent Women in the Workplace report from McKinsey & Co. and LeanIn revealed that we are in the midst of “The Great Breakup.” Women are leaving their corporate jobs, switching positions, and failing to rise in the management ranks. Unfortunately, matters are even worse in the cybersecurity industry, where women make up just 24 percent of the total workforce and occupy only 11 percent of the C-level positions.
With its focus on threat response, offensive tactics, and white hat hacks, cybersecurity in the past has tended to attract a particular breed of alpha male. But Aimei Wei, the founder and CTO of Stellar Cyber, and Natali Tshuva, the founder and CEO of Sternum, are changing the story. They are working hard to make sure that cybersecurity as an industry moves towards gender equality.
Aimei Wei is the founder and CTO of Stellar Cyber.
Aimei Wei, Stellar Cyber
When Aimei Wei left her birth country of China, she had limited funds and spoke little English. All she possessed was a dream and a plan to achieve it. “I arrived in Canada in 1992 with less than $300 in my pocket and no family or friends,” she recalls. “It was my first time on an airplane.”
Wei enrolled in university, mastering English along the way, and then headed to Silicon Valley. She worked on engineering teams at Nuera Communications, SS8 Networks, Cyras Systems, Kineto Wireless, and Cisco before venturing out on her own to start her cybersecurity company.
Stellar Cyber launched in March of 2015. Just one year later, Wei led a small team of engineers to build the first version of what would become Stellar Cyber’s Open XDR platform. The company now has 100-plus employees, over 4,500 customers globally, and more than $3 million in assets under management.
Wei says she relishes the scope of the challenge that cybersecurity presents. “Most companies have to make do with a limited set of security tools and a lean analyst team to use them. I saw that cybersecurity is actually a data problem – you need to see the trends early and act fast. So, I decided to bring big data, AI, and machine learning to bear on the problem.”
“Each endeavor has been a vital learning and growth experience for me,” Wei says. “As a Chinese woman in an environment where most entrepreneurs and leaders are white men, I have faced many barriers. But I have found a way to share my vision with the world, embracing my role as a female engineering leader and encouraging other women to pursue their passion for cybersecurity.”
Natali Tshuva is the founder and CEO of Sternum.
Natali Tshuva, Sternum
Sternum Founder and CEO Natali Tshuva took a different route than Wei to reach the pinnacle of cybersecurity, but she too had obstacles to surmount as a female founder in tech. After graduating from university at age 19, she was hand-picked to serve in an elite intelligence unit with IDF, Israel’s equivalent of the NSA. She stood out in the male-dominated crowd.
In 2015, Tshuva founded Sternum. The company provides embedded solutions for IoT devices, protecting them from within, while also providing granular intelligence about their critical functions. Its tech is compatible with any device, regardless of underlying code, manufacturer, or year of production. Today, the 28-year-old is one of the youngest CEOs in Israel – a feat that transcends both gender and industry.
“I am a firm believer that life is all about the journey,” says Tshuva. “My driving force always has been my desire to help people. This is what got me started with cybersecurity: I saw a problem and wanted to solve it, to make our devices better and safer to use. Smart devices have a huge and direct impact on our day-to-day lives and personal safety. This is also why our first customers were medical device companies. This is where I felt we could help people the most – to really improve their lives and even prevent actual bodily harm.”
Tshuva also explains that she was attracted by the psychological aspects of cybersecurity as much as the technology. “Being able to find a vulnerability, understanding where the weak spots are, and being able to take someone else’s code and leverage it to gain control is as much of a mind game as it is a technical challenge,” says Tshuva.
As more women found cybersecurity companies, they stand as role models for others.
The Way Forward for Women
Wei has this advice for female founders and women looking to break into the cybersecurity industry. “Build a meritocracy in a transparent environment where ideas are encouraged from employees at all levels and they are rewarded for their contributions, not just for the title on the door or their gender.”
For example, one of Stellar Cyber’s senior female managers started as a college graduate and is now leading both the UX and UI teams. The managers of the TechPubs group and sales are women. “We take pride in hiring the best person for every role, and also ensure we do our best to help women succeed in cybersecurity,” says Wei.
When asked how the gender playing field can be leveled in her industry, Tshuva responded, “The increased focus on cyber education, awareness of cyber career paths, and the emergence of female founders and leaders in this space will naturally change the way women are perceived and accepted in cyber. Having more women doing cybersecurity research and acting as business leaders will open the doors for others.”
“We already have seen this happen in other industries,” Tshuva continues. “For example in the medical field, female doctors have trailblazed a path. In Israel today, more than 50% of the doctors are women. As a female engineer, I keenly felt the lack of women role models in tech. My voice sometimes wasn’t heard. Now, I work hard to be a role model for women leaders.”



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