Modern Workplace

This International Women’s Day, let’s pull up a chair for all of our women colleagues

Mar 08, 2024
IWD2024 IWD2024

As a female tech executive, I can say from three decades of experience that it’s often a lonely road to a leadership role. It’s telling that, over the course of my career, I have never been in a meeting with five female peers. For my male counterparts, such an occasion would be unremarkable. 

International Women’s Day (IWD) is an urgent call to action for me. As my friend Shelley Zalis of the Female Quotient often notes, the World Economic forum estimates that closing the gender gap in the global workforce, at our present pace, will take more than 130 years. 



In light of the momentous challenges we face – modernizing enterprise IT architecture, defending against increasingly sophisticated cyber threats, and adapting to emerging technologies like generative AI – we simply don’t have that long to wait. 

Tackling these challenges and empowering businesses requires the best minds regardless of gender, race, or social background. Inclusion also means harnessing diverse perspectives, patterns of thought, aptitudes, and intellects. 

We cannot rise to these challenges by allowing only 50 percent of the population to contribute to finding their solutions. 

Signs of progress

The first International Women's Day was held 113 years ago in March, 1911. It’s hard to believe that this occasion has been marked for over a century, and yet, we continue to grapple with issues around inclusion and the gender equity gap in 2024.  

Yet today, across Fortune 500 companies, just 17 percent of the top cyber jobs belong to women. And only 15 percent of cyber jobs are held by women industry-wide. When it comes to advancement in technology roles, only 52 women are promoted to a managerial role for every 100 men.

This is despite the fact that the data shows companies with diverse boards reported 39 percent higher equity returns than those with less diverse boards. According to McKinsey, doubling the number of women in tech would add hundreds of billions of dollars to the world economy.

At Zscaler we believe that inclusion makes for a healthier and more productive workplace. Zscaler makes every effort in the important work of inspiring inclusion. Whether it is to embrace the diversity of perspectives, of skills, experiences and of backgrounds, to solve the most complex problems our customers look to us to help address. 

We are making real progress as a result. For example:

  • The company's employee resource group, Women in Zscaler Engage (WIZE), has been a tremendous driver of progress for inspiring inclusion among our women employees. More than 1,000 global Zscaler employees have participated in WIZE efforts and events
  • Zscaler has created a program for matching high-potential women with executive sponsors to foster their career growth, which is back for an additional cohort due to overwhelming demand. 
  • And Zscaler was named one of the UK's Best Workplaces for Women.

A pressing need for women in leadership

Today women are most significantly underrepresented in the higher ranks of leadership where we are most needed. Our brains are uniquely wired to be able to multitask, handle conflict, be collaborative, and act with empathy. People often downplay the importance of these soft skills, but they are essential in this changing economy and technology landscape. 

Tackling the challenges mentioned above will require the ability to harness diverse perspectives, thoughts, aptitudes, and intellects. 

We also have before us a tremendous opportunity to innovate and create new lines of business, new technologies, new products, and new ways of solving problems that can have an immeasurably positive influence on national security, healthcare, supply chain management, education, and business. We need the best minds in the industry, and the best minds can come forth when we allow a diverse population to show what they are able to do well. This is our moment to lead from the front to make an impact on the world in both the private and public sector—and to do so, we need to nurture and encourage this diverse collective talent.

Inspiring inclusion in tech

Today, cybersecurity extends beyond IT; it's a vital business asset. Highly sought-after skills like communication, collaboration, empathy, and respect are pivotal in closing the gap between business and information security, technical and non-technical domains, as well as tech companies and their customers. These so-called “soft skills” are now in-demand and women are often better positioned to provide them.

Many women possess a remarkable ability to navigate multi-threaded and highly collaborative tasks. To act with broad vision. To bring empathy to their work. These attributes align with the tech industry’s broader incentives. As the data bears out, organizations who harness these particular skills will outperform those who fail to foster inclusion. 

So, this International Women’s Day, I am calling on all to recognize that women’s success is all of our success. We should acknowledge the tremendous progress women have made in society without trivializing the hurdles that lay ahead. 

As the mother of three daughters, this is not an academic concern. We simply cannot wait a century and a half for girls and young women to have an equal chance at solving some of businesses’ – and the planet’s – most pressing challenges.

What to read next 

In conversation with Shelley Zalis, Founder & CEO of The Female Quotient

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