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Women report sexual harassment at cyber security conference

After attending a cyber security conference, Jane Frankland, managing director of Cyber Security Capital, expressed her frustration on social media about an event organizer’s using of so-called booth babes. Frankland was attacked by internet trolls and the backlash continued to spread. She decided to write a blog to explain her comments, and that is when a surprising thing happened.

Inappropriate comments and touches

Frankland started to receive messages of support, and several women also contacted her about facing sexual harassment at the conference. One woman said she was groped by another executive at the event.

Another woman received inappropriate text messages from a board committee member. According to Forbes, the messages said she was cute, and that her boyfriend was lucky. When the woman reported this behavior to an organizer, her concerns were dismissed because no one had touched her, and she was labeled a flirt.

Sexual harassment can be subtle

Sexual harassment does not always have to include unwanted touching, such as the case of the first woman. It can also include comments that are lewd or offensive, jokes of a sexual nature or sexual images. Often, sexual harassment is much subtler, which is why those facing harassment may be uncertain about reporting it. Frankland also believes many people worry that reporting harassment may damage their careers.

It is not clear how pervasive sexual harassment is at cyber security industry events, since there have been no studies to measure it. However, anecdotal reports show the problem is global and has been going on for years.

The industry itself is growing. According to Statista, the global cyber security market is expected to hit $153.01 billion by 2018, and it is expected to continue to grow to rapidly.

Executive creates a code of conduct

Now that Frankland is aware of this problem, she wants to do something about it. She has created a code of conduct for cyber security events, which she hopes to launch just before DefCon and Black Hat events. The code will outline unacceptable behavior, how victims can report this behavior, what will be done about harassment and the timeline for responding to accusations. It will guide behavior for speakers, sponsors, attendees, staff, organizers and any event partners.

Frankland plans to get approval for the code of conduct from industry executives, event organizers and membership bodies related to the industry.

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