Building a security community I want to stay in

Leigh Honeywell teaching an Ally Skills workshop
Yours truly teaching an Ally Skills workshop for the EEOC.

Over the years, I’ve had hundreds of conversations with people of all genders (but mostly men) about what we can do to make tech, and information security in particular, a better place for women. Kids’ programs like r00tz and HacKid make it clear that plenty of girls want to be hackers early on. There is some awesome work happening specifically around increasing the number of women entering the pipeline – NYU’s Career Discovery symposium for women, ACSA‘s scholarships for women studying information security, Tennessee Tech’s Women in Cyber Security Conference, the EWF‘s fellowship at Carnegie Mellon, and many others. But we also have to make things better for the women who are already here.

I myself had a scary brush with burnout in the past year, and with a lot of work and amazingly supportive colleagues I’ve gotten through it. I want to stay in this field – but I need your help to make that happen. So if you’ve ever benefited from something I said or did – had an “ah-ha!” moment, got an interview you wanted, or finally understood threat modeling – I’m asking you to donate to the organization that kept me on this side of burnout: the Ada Initiative.

Donate now

Let me tell you why the Ada Initiative is making it easier for me to stay in infosec. This summer in Las Vegas during Security Conference Extravaganza Week, I taught two free Ally Skills workshops using the materials the Ada Initiative has spent the past three years developing. We make these materials available for free, online, under a Creative Commons license – we want the world to use them. Here are some things people said about the workshop:

“The key to the Ally Skills workshop is that it creates an environment where, with some basic ground rules, it’s possible to talk through all of those awkward day-to-day moments we all face as professionals in an industry with a gender disparity. Turning the cringeworthy into the teachable is no small feat, but the structure of the workshop makes it not only possible, but fun and surprisingly painless. Awesomesauce.” –Shawn Moyer

“As a woman in security, I thought I knew everything there was to know on the subject, and mostly attended for the promised snacks. To my surprise, I found the workshop to be deeply meaningful. It was encouraging to be in a room full of considerate people that wanted to improve their community, and it was a fantastic, introspective exercise figuring out what those improvements could be.” –Marisa Fagan

“The material presented and the trainer were both excellent, but what made it stick in a meaningful way were the stories shared by the participants. Everyone contributed thoughtfully which made it much easier to imagine how you might act on the information in real situations.” –Chet Wisniewski

Knowing that I’m not alone – that these people support me and they are going to take action when they see bad stuff going down – lets my shoulders come down from around my ears and allows me to think, hey, maybe I can keep doing this.

So I’m making you a challenge – two challenges, actually. First, if the rest of you donate $2048, I’ll match that donation with my own money. My employer, Salesforce.com, will match that dollar-for-dollar – so the impact of your donation will be tripled. Last year, I made a matching challenge to my friends in the name of my grandmother, architect Janet Leys Mactavish Shaw. You can read about her on Wikipedia – she was a badass lady who would have loved hacking and open technology and culture had she lived to see them happen.

And here’s my second challenge: I heard from a lot of people who were unable to make the workshops in Las Vegas that they would love to attend one. So if we can raise $4096, I will personally teach a free workshop – with content I’ve written specifically for information security – in San Francisco in the next six months.

Donate now

Scaling this workshop up is, to me, one of the most powerful things happening right now in working to improve conditions for women in geeky fields, and especially information security. I want you to join me in making this happen.

“It was great to have conversations, among people who support the aims of geek feminism, about how to handle situations and improve things. Online discussions tend to devolve into debating “how sexist something is”, which “side” is “overreacting”, or worse. Anyone who appreciates the depth, balance, and nuance found on the Geek Feminism wiki would enjoy one of your workshops.” –Jesse Ruderman

“It was enlightening to explore topics around sexism which, as a man in information security, I’m rarely exposed to with such honesty. The ability to have discussions with other men and women in the group was key to fully ingesting Leigh’s great skills lessons and questioning my own attitudes.” –Ryan O’Horo