Soledad Antelada is the first and only woman at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the laboratory where 12 Nobel prizes have come from.
She was born in Argentina but raised in Málaga, Spain. This Professional (with a capital “P”) is responsible for developing cybersecurity projects in one of the most important laboratories in the world.
As Girls Can Hack’s founder, an institution created to enhance the role of women in the programming world, Soledad shared with us her personal opinions about what it’s like to work in the mecca of the tech world.
How did your passion for programming began?
To be honest, never. That’s why I’m not a developer anymore. The experience as programmer has been key in my career but that was only the first step for what came later. Cybersecurity is my real passion.
Your passion for technology led to the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Several interviews have indicated that you are one of the few Latina women to work in this prestigious centre. Statistically, we could say that you are the minority of the minorities. How does it feel to be a Latina woman in the tech world?
I’m the first and only woman in the security group at LBNL and of course the only Latina. I don’t know where to start about how it feels. Looks like a piece of cake from the outside but that is not the reality. I have at least 3 strikes against me: Latina, Woman, English as a second language. I also try to speak my mind now more often and that’s still not well received when coming from a woman.
You’ve created the Girls Can Hack group, which currently has 280 members.
What is your intention with this initiative and what changes are you looking for in the technology sector with it?
I’d like to normalize the fact that girls choose this type of career and that they become cyber engineers. Cybersecurity is shaping the world and women are being left out once again. I also would like to expand GCH to other countries like Spain and transform the organization in a hub for talent.
In several reports last year, the American press talked about the sexist environment in Silicon Valley. In the last survey, for example, only 20% of the jobs on technology were held by women and only 30% of leadership positions were taken by women.
From your perspective, coming from inside this sector, why are the numbers of female participation so low? Is there sexism in tech companies?
The sexism is fierce. Sexism is so installed in the culture that even many men that say they are helping women are not aware of the fact that they don’t get it. They keep the mansplaining or the superiority they are entitled to as part of the man privilege culture. Of course, it’s impossible to see women being fairly promoted or promoted at the same pace as men. Women in mid career normally stay for a long time in the same positions while seeing the rest of the male universe pass them not only in positions but in salary several times. I could write a book about this topic.
“Net neutrality equals freedom. any attack on it is an attempt against our freedom”
What is your opinion of the rollback of Net Neutrality in the US, and how can it affect consumers in the future?
Net neutrality equals freedom. Any attack on it is an attempt against our freedom. Giving power to ISPs about distribution of content and information becomes a censorship process that also gives power to groups that are able to lobby those ISPs to act on their favor.
In an interview with El País, you talked about the necessity of teaching users how to protect themselves from cyber-attacks.
Nowadays the proliferation of cyber-attacks is due to the fact that the user is more careless or that hackers have become more powerful?
The proliferation of cyber attacks is due to several factors. There are more and more technological products and businesses. More things in the common life of a human being are being hooked up to the internet like cars or fridges, and the social part of life is more in the cloud now as well.
Companies used to hide the attacks and data breaches more often before. They didn’t want customers to know. Now the media is on top of this kind of news.
In previous years there were important events about the FBI wanting to crack the phone of people considered highly dangerous and the denial of important companies to help them unlock the user’s phone.
What is your opinion as a Security Expert? Does the user’s personal security have a limit?
Yes, I strongly believe there is a limit. Privacy of the individual has to be guaranteed, it is a right. See, as an analogy if you need to open a hole in everybody’s house front wall only to get to the houses of the people that are breaking the law, would that be OK? Same with the FBI iPhone case.