As Symantec continues to pursue our vision and looks to lead the way in developing technology for tomorrow, expanding the pool of talent and insuring diversity of perspective is critical to our success. Today, I’m honored to announce that I will serve as champion of Symantec’s Women’s Initiative, a program focused on attracting, engaging, and developing women at Symantec so that we can be more competitive and produce superior business outcomes.
Changing the perception of women in technology
According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, “women fill close to half of all jobs in the U.S. economy; yet hold less than 25 percent of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) jobs.” While this statistic is U.S.-based, the fact is around the world women are underrepresented in the field of technology. Even more concerning, the enrollment of women in the field of computer science is declining.
Computer science and engineering offer extremely promising careers—for not just women, but everyone. However, when we look at attracting and retaining women within the field, there are many key hurdles to overcome, including development opportunities, too few high-level female role models, and a lack of broad support from peers. Our programs for technical women focus on changing this. By providing a sense of community, networking, and mentoring we hope to further develop our female technical talent here at Symantec as well as improve female representation in the overall field of technology.
Highlighting technical women’s activities around the world
Over the past few months, Symantec’s technical women have participated in numerous events and have received strong accolades around the world. Recent highlights include:
- TechWomen empower the next generation: As part of the Women's Initiative, Symantec participated in TechWomen, a program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) that aims to empower, connect, and support the next generation of women leaders in STEM. One of the highlights of the program is a five-week international mentorship and exchange program that pairs emerging women leaders from Middle East and North Africa with U.S. counterparts at leading technology companies such as Symantec. The selection process for mentees is highly competitive, with only 78 women chosen - four of which were from Symantec. Symantec had eight employees participate in the program. They included professional mentors Sheri Rhodes, Shalaka Prabhune, Eileen Brewer, Sowmya Simha, and Geeta Gharpure; and cultural mentors Mohna Dhomse, Neeti Gowda, and Andria Bouskos. As part of the program, Symantec hosted a TechWomen Mentee Showcase Event in our Mountain View headquarters where mentees and mentors shared their projects and cultural experiences with Symantec employees.
- Grace Hopper conferences connect Symantec with women pursuing careers in technology: This year, Symantec was once again the Silver Sponsor of the Grace Hopper Celebration (GHC) of Women in Computing conferences in the United States and India, hosted annually by the Anita Borg Institute (ABI). Symantec sent more than 100 technical women to the conferences, participated in panel discussions and workshops, and hosted career fair booths. “Grace Hopper is much more than a conference, says Charmy Ruparel, Program Manager, Diversity and Inclusion. “First and foremost it’s a celebration of technical women. Symantec’s participation provided an opportunity to develop the skills of our technical talent, recruit future employees and build our brand as a great place to work for technical women.”
- Symantec funds student-run programs to increase number of women studying computer science: Symantec is a long-standing corporate partner of non-profit organizations focused on technical women such as the Anita Borg Institute (ABI) and the National Center for Women and Information Technology (NCWIT), organizations that help Symantec achieve its goal of motivating and inspiring technical women. Last year, Symantec partnered with NCWIT and awarded $10,500 USD in seed funding to 14 student-run projects that aim to increase the number of women studying computer science and information technology disciplines. Since 2010, the NCWIT Student Seed Fund, sponsored by Symantec, has distributed $43,250 USD in funding to 70 student-run projects at universities and colleges nationwide.
- Symantec sponsors study on “Women in the Information Security Profession”: Symantec partnered with (ISC)2, the world’s largest not-for-profit information security professional organization, and released a report, “Agents of Change: Women in the Information Security Profession.” The study highlights a severe shortage of woman in the information security industry and why organizations globally need to shift attention to this critical problem. “Symantec believes it is critical that we bring more qualified women into the cyber security profession. Through our support of this study, and our broader commitment to women in STEM professions, we hope to increase the representation of women in technology,” says JJulie Talbot-Hubbard, chief security officer at Symantec. “In working with partners such as (ISC)², we are able to bring a greater awareness to this important issue."
- Industry recognition: Symantec’s female employees continue to shine. Most recently, Shalaka Prabhune, Director of IT Global Applications at Symantec was featured in the December 2013/January 2014 edition of Diversity/Careers, as part of a series titled: Women of Color in IT: few, confident, learning and leading. The article describes Shalaka’s background, role, and the experiences and people that led to her success. Wei Lin, Senior Director of Engineering at Symantec, was not only featured in Minority Engineer Magazine's fall issue, but was also on the cover.
- Mountain View opens its doors to middle school students: In November, Symantec hosted students from Techbridge, a non-profit organization dedicated to inspiring underrepresented girls in science, technology, and engineering. Throughout the day, the students participated in hands-on stations taking apart servers, constructing electromagnetic motors, and exploring the world of malware, and had opportunities to interact with Symantec leaders and hear stories of determination, passion, and teamwork.
In addition to supporting the development of technical women at Symantec, we’re proud to offer a robust collective of programs dedicated to advancing and empowering all women in the workplace.
Ultimately, diversity is fuel for our future. Without it, we are missing out on untapped talent, differing points of view, and innovation that can make a real difference on both the culture and the bottom line. Symantec has recognized that attracting, developing, and retaining women is an area of opportunity and competitive advantage for some time, and has made some significant strides – including reaching our goal of 27 percent of leadership positions being held by women, commensurate with their overall representation in the company. However, more can – and must – be done. I want to see us develop clear plans, and track the impact we’re having – ultimately, our efforts need to contribute to making Symantec an employer of choice for the best and brightest talent. Being able to demonstrate progress against this is personally important to me, and I am excited to lead the Women’s Initiative and champion our commitment to developing a diverse employee base and strong future workforce.
For more information, visit the diversity and inclusion page of the Corporate Responsibility website.
Roxane Divol is Symantec's Senior Vice President of Alliances, and serves as the executive champion of the company's women's initiative.