A report done by Power In Diversity examined 70 Venture Capital funds and 424 private and VC-backed startups that are active in Israel. It revealed that the average percentage of women represented in companies is 33%. Though there is a more substantial presence of women in large companies (36%) than in smaller companies (30.8%), the representation of women in tech jobs is a mere 27%. When it comes to management roles, being a C-level executive, a VP, or a director, only 23.4% of these positions are filled by women. That is to say, less than a quarter of the decision-makers in the ecosystem are women. When looking at VCs, only 14.8% of the partners are women and 9% are investing partners. This piece of data correlates with the percentage of companies that are founded by women in the tech industry which is 12%. These statistics reflect not only the Israeli tech ecosystem but also the global one, as the universal technology industry has only 31% overall female representation.

In order for the startup nation to continue to thrive, there needs to be more diversity within tech; there is no reason why the human makeup of the ecosystem should not represent the number of women in the general population, and the number of qualified women for these roles. Though there has been a significant increase in the number of women that are represented in the tech ecosystem in Israel, it is far from being enough. This series will focus on those women who have made it in tech and tell the stories of their journeys within the tech ecosystem– where they are now, and how they got there. We hope that this series will inspire other women to go after their tech-driven goals and not let gender biases, prejudices, and stereotypes get in their way; we hope to motivate companies to allocate considerable resources to the implementation of diversity programs and focus on expanding the pool of candidates that are underrepresented in the workforce; we hope to encourage government and educational institutions to take measures in providing the tools, support, and means necessary to enable a more diversified tech workforce.

Liat Hayun is the co-founder and CEO of Eureka, a cloud data security posture management platform that enables security teams to successfully navigate the ongoing and often chaotic expansion and growth of cloud data. Eureka is helping companies gain control over their cloud data security and compliance.

The digital transformation has moved our entire lives online. Data is a valuable asset for helping businesses operate and compete. Today, enterprises generate and collect a great deal of information, including customer and financial data, intellectual property, and trade secrets. The transformation has understandably led to certain challenges, one of them being data security.

Essentially, development and business teams now leverage and create cloud data stores faster than security teams can keep up with and often without their knowledge; the manual processes in which organizations used to manage their cloud security no longer suffice with the exponential growth and usage of cloud data. This means that sensitive data is exposed and at risk of leaks and loss as well as destruction and exfiltration by bad actors. As data security threats and breaches continue to increase, keeping one's data, be it personal or part of an organization is crucial. That is why Liat started Eureka Security; as cybersecurity is such a pivotal element in our new digital lives, she wanted to solve the urgent and critical problems that face it.

Protecting our digital lives

Eureka addresses these risks in a manner that does not force security leaders to limit which data stores enterprise users wish to leverage. Instead, it offers a holistic perspective on all cloud data stores connected to an enterprise environment, and monitors excessive access policies, configuration issues and policy violations all the while enabling security leaders to actively reduce risks; their platform addresses all security concerns directly. Eureka is able to provide a bird’s eye view of all cloud data stores, as well as its data-centric policy translation engine. The engine automatically translates data protection policies around privacy, risk, compliance, and security into platform-specific controls that can be implemented into each cloud data store. Now, engineers can have more ownership around the security posture of the data stores they maintain, enabling them to responsibly leverage any cloud data store without constraints; privacy, risk, compliance and security teams can manage a single and combined repository of policy requirements which is a highly complicated task; security teams can save precious time by configuring and protecting cloud data stores in their environments without having to develop deep expertise for every tech stack they encounter. Eureka deploys within minutes and seamlessly integrates into existing cloud infrastructure using APIs without requiring agents, routing all traffic or access through a proxy. Moreover, Eureka is non-intrusive and “read-only”, ensuring the full integrity of customer environments. Eureka Security is changing the way organizations think about data protection by helping them secure data without slowing down their business.

In a conversation with Geektime, Liat Hayun opened up to us about her journey through tech, and how she got to where she is today: a founder and CEO of an Israeli cloud security startup.

Liat was always a technical person. As a child, if you didn't find her playing the drums, she was most likely taking things apart to figure out how they worked, be it battery-operated toys, cameras, or computers. Her parents encouraged her to explore this passion and gave her unwavering support as she began to dive deeper into science and mathematics as a teenager. Though she originally wanted to be an aeronautical engineer, she realized during her time in the IDF’s Talpiot program that you can create something out of nothing simply by writing code. As a software developer and team leader in the IDF’s military intelligence Unit 81, she realized that solving software bugs is like solving riddles, which she had a keen fascination with. This inspired her to change directions and focus on software.

Even in her military service, Liat showed promise as an innovator, so much so that she received the prestigious Israel Defense Award for Significant Technological Innovation. After leaving the IDF, she spent 6 years at Palo Alto Networks as a product manager, and eventually became VP of Product Management. Then, in 2021, she co-founded Eureka Security.

Being a mother to her 3-year-old daughter Noam is not the only thing that motivates Liat. “Companies and organizations that we have partnered with are relying on us to help them secure their most valuable asset– data. They have trusted us and put their fate in our hands. It is that trust that motivates me and my team; we have all joined this crazy ride together. Living up to the expectations of both my team, partners, and customers motivates me every day.” Moreover, since the cybersecurity industry is extremely dynamic and fast-paced, it guarantees a lot of excitement to those within, which is Liat's favourite thing about the industry.

Liat continued by saying that she sees her role as a female cybersecurity entrepreneur to set an example for young women (and men) who may want to enter this field but see barriers instead of opportunities: “If I can impact their journey, that would be truly rewarding.” Liat has been fortunate enough to never experience gender prejudice; she worked at companies that are merit-based and viewed her technical and professional abilities objectively, so her gender never impacted how she was treated or the attitudes toward her output. However, she understands that her experience is hardly the norm. That is why she wants to lead by example and inspire other women on their journeys in tech: “I believe that as more women challenge gender prejudices in the industry, we will begin to see that those norms will change, for the betterment of everyone”

Liat’s grasp on the industry has allowed her to put forth the strengths she believes are necessary for success. “Despite its technical characteristics, this field demands creativity and an ability to sharply pinpoint problems and obstacles. Naturally, technical abilities are crucial along with a strong and stable work ethic to withstand the speed and competition. The industry is very demanding so you must adapt and respond quickly. Beyond the technical aspects, as a CEO, I believe it is important to be flexible and agile to succeed in this dynamic environment. Having a clear vision and an executable strategy is also important for it will enable your success while also inspiring others to join you in the challenge you wish to embark on”

Liat attests her success to her constant curiosity. “You have to constantly be asking questions; curiosity and a passion for exploration served me well in both my personal life and in my career. As a CEO and employer, you need to be a role model in various ways. I try to do that for my employees. I try to lead by example. I encourage them to be curious and chase after their dreams. I also encourage them to find a balance between work and home life, as I am determined to make time for my family. They should be too.”

Being a CEO in the industry has its challenges– no free time, logistical nightmares with global partners, constant hurdles that need to be leaped over–but being a woman CEO is even more difficult. Liat has experienced those difficulties firsthand. “At times, people have expressed surprise at my achievements or background, simply because I am a woman. I would have hoped that by 2022 the industry would have realized that gender has little to no relevance in our field. If you work hard, persevere, and continue to perfect your technological and managerial abilities, it shouldn't matter what your gender is. I hope young girls can look at me and see that as a female founder I have done it, and they can too; they can set ambitious goals for themselves and work hard to achieve them and not think twice about it, especially to not let their gender get in the way. But, as a woman in the field, I do understand the gender gaps that exist within. In fact, it isn't just my field, it's the global workforce as a whole. That’s why I am proud to be an equal opportunity employer. Me and my co-founder, Asaf Weiss, share this view- we are determined to recruit equally and without gender bias.”

Liat believes that equality begins with opportunity. Once given the same opportunity to excel, people have the responsibility to ensure that they live up to the required standards and prove their abilities, regardless of their gender. “If certain roles, subject matters, and disciplines are not open and available to women – this is where the gender gap thrives and expands. And this is unfortunately seen in the technology sector as women are significantly less represented. This is in and of itself is a huge deterrent.” However, the road to equality doesn’t end with opportunity. Even with similar opportunities, women are subjected to bias and preconceived notions that men have been lucky to avoid, and therefore women are expected to prove themselves in areas where men have a given advantage. “That is why I won't use this platform to entice other women, but rather call on men in the industry. Women today know what they need to do to advance and grow within this sector; we’ve been experiencing the biases and challenges mentioned above for years, so it isn't new to us. Men, on the other hand, tend to not think about it too much. So, I want to challenge them to be mindful of the gender gap and be proactive in ensuring that their female colleagues are given the same opportunities that they are given, which includes equal pay. Hold your company to a higher standard by being part of the solution instead of exacerbating the problem. The gender gap in the Israeli high-tech sector is not a female problem –it is a national workforce concern that requires all genders to work towards its eradication.” Liat expressed that luckily, the tech industry has made some inroads for women, especially in the realm of parenthood, a role that has traditionally been emphasized by the mother. These traditional assumptions have acted as a deterrent for women to enter tech as the demanding nature of the industry will require them to mitigate employer expectations regarding their work-life balance. “However, the industry has made progress in aligning expectations with the modern-day parent. Even men are given the opportunity to go on paternity leave, which is a very positive change that can allow women to continue advancing. Though the field still has ways to go to ensure that all employees, both men and women, feel safe, empowered, and seen in the workplace, today’s dynamic work environment provides the flexibility for employees to concentrate on their wellbeing and personal lives while maintaining high output and delivering at work. Having a family should not stop you from living out your dreams. I know for myself, the one constant I have in my life is my daily dinners at home with my daughter and getting to read her a bedtime story. The flexibility of the work environment guarantees me this.”

What Liat hopes to see in the future is an institutional change since much of the gender gap stems from it. In schools, the systematic tracking of girls away from STEM classes clearly correlates to the widening gap in the workforce. In the IDF, there is a distinct lack of women in technical roles, which plays a central role in Israeli society in both grooming and leveraging technical talent for the workforce. Moreover, the Hebrew language, as a gender language, leads to women's voices being practically invisible in publications, promotional content, invitations, speeches, and academic content. “The road to recovery and inclusion must begin at the institutional level. As for the tech sector, I believe that companies have a responsibility to ensure that women are afforded the same opportunities as men in all capacities - on panels, at speaking events, in conferences, and of course, as managers and leaders within the organizations themselves. This visibility will have an impact both inside the current workforce but will also pave the way for girls and young women who will see that women hold significant roles in this sector. Stop assuming that women can only hold positions in HR or operations. Start promoting that the industry, though demanding, is uniquely flexible, which allows women like myself to focus both on getting the job done but also on our personal and family lives. This fact should be amplified to ensure that women view the industry as a place to thrive in.” Who knows, you may even have some free time to travel, cook, or even get back on your drum kit, just like Liat loves to do.