Momentum Means Movement

It is no secret that the world of Cybersecurity is dominated in population by men. There are numerous references to this statistic, such as the one from the 2017 Global Information Security Workforce Study: Women in Cybersecurity that notes only 11% of the cybersecurity population are women. While this statistic has remained the same over the last several years, I have seen a spotlight being placed on the importance of changing it. In addition to the fact that diversity makes better teams, focusing on making a change is critical in order to make a dent in the estimated 1.5 million job openings by 2019. With a deficit this large, our data is left vulnerable to cyber-attacks and as these attacks grow in size, frequency and complexity, the magnitude of this gap in cybersecurity professionals also grows.

However, there is reason for optimism. As the industry begins to develop creative programs to attract young girls to STEM careers and cybersecurity in particular, exciting programs are being developed all around us.

A day in the life: With a host of challenges facing females considering pursuing a career in STEM, there are many organizations who are beginning to shine a light on the need for females to close in on the deficit. Arbor Networks recently sponsored Girl Develop It (GDI) to help bring awareness to the cybersecurity profession through adult women who want to learn web and software development. At a joint event in May, GDI members were provided an opportunity to network with Arbor employees, play an Attack and Defend game, and ask questions about what it is like to work for Arbor. Engineers were available for deeper technical questions and to give a glimpse into what a day in the life of an Arbor Engineer is like. Our hope is that through this partnership and many others, we can begin encouraging women of all ages to pursue a career in STEM.

Fighting Stereotypes Before Cybercrimes: In my recent blog post, STEM Girls Have Swagger, I interviewed a sixteen year old named Kaitlin and she felt like society places gender specific roles on us and that can be intimidating for young girls to even consider a career in STEM. If our young females grow up feeling incapable or intimidated, disruption to the gap on 1.5 million jobs will never take place. The good news is things are changing (slowly, but moving in the right direction), this past week, Palo Alto Networks announced that they are joining forces with the Girl Scouts of the USA to develop a program to allow girls from as young as 5 years old to earn cybersecurity badges in the Fall of 2018. What an extraordinary step towards removing traditional gender specific intimidations. The most profound statement in the announcement referenced that the girls were asking for this type of training – that means all of the groups out there that have been developed to help highlight this issue are starting to make a difference. I don’t know about you ladies, but when I was a Girl Scout, I would have loved being able to learn how to fight cybercrimes while also learning how to cook.

Approaching the problem from all directions: Arbor Network’s Women on Their Way (WoW) initiative believes that fighting cybercrimes should start early in life and we should do everything we can to empower our females internally to help externally. With the Girl Scouts of USA giving opportunity to girls as young as 5 and programs like Girl Develop It giving opportunity to adult women, our goal would be to compliment these efforts by doing our part to get involved in the communities around us. We strive to bring continued awareness to this issue.

Big Steps for womankind: In the weeks following our rollout of WoW I was approached by two different Dads in my office who were excited about our message and shared it with their teenage daughters. They asked for our t-shirts so they could continue the conversation with their daughters. What an amazing antidote to our journey. Techie Dads who are encouraging their daughters to study STEM. I recently read an interview done by Girls in STEM Executive Advisory Clinic and they were featuring Dads of Daughters in STEM. This particular interview was with Dr. Elliot Coleshill and when asked what fathers can do to support their daughters in exploring STEM-related interests, he stated, “Fathers need to reinforce the fact that nothing is out-of-reach to their daughters, just because they are female.” THAT, along with the Dads in my office, is what it is all about.

We recognize that not only are there gaps in the number of women studying STEM, but also in the number of women represented at the executive level within STEM careers. Change has to come from all directions. I implore each of you, men and women alike, to find your motivation to better the world and stick to it. If you decide you have an interest in STEM studies, stick to it. Encourage your sisters, significant others, daughters, and other women in your life to seek opportunities within the technology field. We are at a critical turning point and we cannot afford to have separate experiences and/or opportunities for females for any reason. With brains in our heads and motivation on our minds, we have the will to go anywhere we want to go. Now go do it!