An introduction to this article appeared in the monthly Creating Connections newsletter put together by the women of The CyberWire. This is a guest-written article. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors, not necessarily the CyberWire, Inc.
Welcoming women in cybersecurity.
Women make up just 24% of the workforce in Cybersecurity according to ISC2, but why is that? As a young woman with interests in computers and coding, growing up it was difficult to find other girls with similar interests. Whenever I expressed these interests, women in their wiser years would tell me that I could not enjoy such things and to find “more ladylike” hobbies. This seemingly innocuous advice is often enough to discourage young women from attempting to pursue a career in the STEM field, and is one example of why women are so woefully underrepresented in it. If we do not address the lack of awareness, and incorrect perception about cybersecurity, then women will continue to be underrepresented.
Awareness for young women in cybersecurity refers to creating avenues to exhibit what women are capable of accomplishing, which in turn will lead to an increase in representation. The idea is that when you see those that you identify with doing something, you will be able to visualize yourself doing that same activity. One popular avenue to improve the diversity in cybersecurity is by holding events where those trying to enter the field can meet those already immersed, such as the CyberWire's recent Women in Cybersecurity event. Events such as these promote not only a realistic viewpoint on what cybersecurity is and why it is important, but also encourages a positive environment to network. I excitedly attended the Women in Cybersecurity event hosted by the CyberWire in October and was blown away. As someone who is usually the only girl in class, it was quite refreshing to be in a room almost entirely composed of women. To start off the lively night, there was a speech that began with acknowledgement of all of whom played a role in making the event possible. The speaker then introduced the featured artist Marcia Wolfson Ray who, inspired by the collision and subsequent dispersion of particles in physics, commissioned a piece entitled “Untitled 6” with the event theme, “Creating Connections,” in mind.
After the welcome and announcements, there was a dazzling champagne toast, and we were off to enjoy the well-thought-out reception. As this was my first networking event, I was unaware of what to do, so my colleague whom I came with and myself headed straight for the food to calm our nerves. Usually, I do not have difficulty choosing which foods to eat, but there was such a large variety that I could not decide. There were two chefs tossing food about in their pans before serving them into their respective bowls. There were multiple servers walking around with petits apéritifs in the form of tiny crab cakes and miniature sushi bites. Before we made it to one of several white clothed tables, we somehow struck up a conversation with a fellow attendee and ended up eating together by one of the many floor to ceiling windows that lined the International Spy Museum ballroom. We talked about how she came to work at her current position, what her hobbies are, and if she would recommend her company to others. As it turns out, she is a participant of the Pathways program at her company, which is an entry-level, three-year endeavor in which she gets to explore rotational assignments to learn on the job and establish a foundation in her career. She loves to do volunteer work, and she not only shared many tips to apply to the program, but she opened my eyes to new volunteer opportunities I would have never known to exist.
By the time we made a second food run for the new menu items that had been served, we struck up conversation with a SOC team that had come to the event together. Among the chipper group was the hiring manager in charge of the internships. Once she learned that I was interested, she was more than happy to share more details about their internship, and encouraged me to apply. In addition to the tables lined with food, there was a table adorned with coffee dispensers and cozy mugs. On the barista’s table sat the custom souvenir champagne flutes, and there were different booths that offered varying information. My favorite however, was the custom Lego design station, at which I personalized a Lego character before setting her on a stand that read “CyberVista,” one of the sponsor's of the event. It was now time for dessert, and whoopie pies, milk chocolate toffee brownie vessels, sweet potato cheesecakes, salted caramel s’more lollipops, and apple crisp tartlets were on the menu. Before we left, we received goodie bags laden with items, but best of all, a print of the intrinsically thought-provoking artwork featured that night signed by the artist herself.
Because of the Women in Cybersecurity event, I have made so many new valuable connections, and finally feel a sense of community. Out of all of the tech-related classes and clubs I am affiliated with, I am one of two women participating. Attending the Women in Cybersecurity event showed me that I am not alone, which improved my confidence, and I want to do the same for others. As women we should encourage each other, and by raising awareness, we can inspire young girls to follow our footsteps.