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February 20, 2014
Did you know that, according to an (ISC)2 study, only 11% of cybersecurity professionals are women? This statistic comes at a time when there is double-digit annual growth in the profession as a whole. At the upcoming RSA Conference, I will join my peers on the “Right Skills, Right Time, Right Industry: Women in Security” panel for a discussion on the impact women have had in the field of cybersecurity and what the future holds. This discussion around women in cybersecurity is an important one, and I am excited to represent Booz Allen and help take the conversation to the next level.
As I prepare for the RSA panel, I have been thinking about my personal experiences and career path as a woman in the cyber industry. In hindsight, it’s easy to see how cyber would emerge as a career focus for me – from the time I was young, math was a favorite subject. This naturally led me to a degree in Systems Engineering at the University of Virginia, and after college I was fortunate to have great mentors who helped chart my career from a junior engineer to a business executive in the cyber field. The question our RSA panel will try to address is “How –can our industry give more girls and women the same support I had so they are empowered to have a similarly rewarding career?”
The two factors most important and influential to me were an education in a STEM field and strong mentorship. Ongoing discussions in public forums, like the RSA Conference, hopefully will highlight what factors influenced other women to be cyber professionals. I expect our panel will focus on reasons why women should consider this profession, the strengths and perspectives they can bring to the industry, what makes the industry interesting, and what cyber professionals can do to encourage women to consider this career path. Clearly, the information security field is rapidly growing, and bringing women into the field can help solve the gap in cyber hiring.
At Booz Allen, the cyber team is working with our Strategic Innovation Group (SIG) on some exciting projects where cyber is a key component to meeting our clients’ most difficult challenges – projects that could provide exciting careers. For example, we are highly focused on the tactic of predictive intelligence: with the sophistication of cyber-attack technologies on the rise, cybersecurity professionals now understand the need to anticipate rather than react to these increasingly sophisticated and dangerous cyber-attacks. The ability to analyze hackers’ intentions and capabilities brings a new dimension to risk management and requires strategic and innovative thinkers. Booz Allen is also developing new forms of advanced cyber training capabilities that include simulation exercises that allow security professionals to further develop their skills and become more embedded in the operational environment. Participating in a live training exercise is a great experience and provides a level of collaboration and teamwork not typically associated with information security and technology.
Interesting and challenging career opportunities await women. As a leader in Booz Allen’s cyber business, and as a woman in the industry, I have been blessed with opportunities and supportive mentors. I feel a responsibility to encourage and mentor other women who are on or seeking a similar path. I look forward to our discussion at RSA.