Info@NationalCyberSecurity
Info@NationalCyberSecurity

WiCyS: A champion for a more diverse cybersecurity workforce | #hacking | #cybersecurity | #infosec | #comptia | #pentest | #ransomware


In this Help Net Security interview, Lynn Dohm, Executive Director at Women in CyberSecurity (WiCyS), talks about how the organization supports its members across different stages of their cybersecurity journey.

WiCyS (pronounced Wee-Sis) is an organization dedicated to advancing the representation and success of women in cybersecurity, as well as fostering a more diverse workforce through various strategic initiatives.

In light of existing cybersecurity workforce shortages, the organization’s role is becoming increasingly important.

(Lynn Dohm’s answers have been edited for length and clarity.)

How is WiCyS responding to the current state of affairs in the cybersecurity field?

We are committed to recruiting, retaining, and advocating for women in cybersecurity, creating inclusive environments for women around the world. We work closely with academic institutions, governmental agencies, and industry partners to not only help women enter cybersecurity but to stay, succeed and lead.

Our flagship event, the WiCyS Conference, brings together women and allies offering attendees – both in-person and virtual – technical presentations, workshops, panels, lightning talks, networking socials, résumé reviews, mock interviews, professional headshots, a career fair, a capture-the-flag competition, and more.

Other important initiatives include training sessions tailored to mentor women at various career stages, and research that provide valuable insights into the challenges and opportunities for women in cybersecurity.

Who can become a member of WiCyS and what can the organization help its members with?

Our membership is open to professionals, students, educators, researchers, and allies who support the inclusion and advancement of women in cybersecurity. Members have access to hundreds of the resources and opportunities provided by their network, including professional development, career advancement, education, mentorship, and research.

We offer a range of additional benefits tailored to the diverse needs of our members. Professional members have the unique opportunity to launch a professional affiliate, encouraging a community in their region, corporation, or within their specific area of expertise.

Student members are eligible for WiCyS conference scholarships and are urged to initiate a WiCyS student chapter on campuses, driving more interest in cybersecurity at the high-school and university level.

For veteran members, we provide conference Veteran Fellowship Awards, discounts on membership and conference fees, and opportunities to engage in the WiCyS Veterans’ Apprenticeship program, helping with the transition into cybersecurity.

Faculty members are not left out: they can access WiCyS conference faculty grants and play a pivotal role in nurturing the next generation of cybersecurity professionals by serving as faculty advisors for WiCyS student chapters on their campuses.

What are some lesser known WiCyS’s activities?

In addition to our annual conference and networking events, we heavily invest in collaborative research to better understand and address the challenges women encounter in cybersecurity.

Two essential studies that support this mission are the State of Inclusion Benchmark Report, to be released in April and the Cyber Talent Study, to be released in May.

In collaboration with DEI firm Aleria, The State of Inclusion Benchmark Report analyzes workplace experiences and sheds light on the disparities and challenges women encounter daily. With insights from over 1,000 employees across more than 20 organizations, the report quantifies the extent of exclusion, providing a foundation for targeted interventions and policy changes.

The findings reveal distinct disparities: women face exclusion rates twice as high as men. The report also highlights the adverse impact of intersectionality, where individuals with multiple differing identity traits experience increased levels of exclusion.

In collaboration with N2K, the Cyber Talent Study looks at the skill sets and career paths of women in cybersecurity, identifying areas of strength and potential growth, and highlights the gaps and opportunities for further development and advancement.

It’s about giving members the tools they need to shine in their roles and advance in their careers. The insights gained from this study are invaluable, helping tailor programs and initiatives to better serve our community and strengthen their capabilities in line with industry demands.

These studies examine the systemic issues that women face in the industry and provide data-driven evidence that can drive change and support advocacy efforts. By combining the insights from these studies with the community-building power of their events, we are creating a holistic approach to supporting and advancing women in cybersecurity.

Though WiCyS is a US-based non-profit, it has members (and chapters) across the globe. Are the opportunities WiCyS offers the same for all?

WiCyS provides member benefits across the globe through our chapters, affiliates and student groups. We offer opportunities internationally, fully aware that our community is wonderfully diverse and their needs are just as varied.

What’s available might differ a bit depending on several geographic and logistical factors. But, we have several virtual opportunities, ensuring everyone can benefit from WiCyS opportunities regardless of where they are located.

WiCyS 2024 has a fully-virtual component following the in-person event that includes a virtual job and career fair. Our mentorship and networking initiatives are also mostly online, promoting global interaction.

We also have webinars, workshops, and training sessions online, so all of our members can participate. We try to make scholarships and grants as accessible as possible, making adjustments as needed to fit with local funding scenarios.

We also encourage student chapters at colleges and universities globally, aiming to spark a passion for cybersecurity in young women everywhere. We actively engage in policy conversations worldwide, pushing for the best practices in cybersecurity inclusivity.

WiCyS is focused on improving recruitment, retention and advancement of women in the cybersecurity field. Which WiCyS initiatives in each of those segments have proven to be most effective? And how do you think they can be “transplanted” into organizations and society in general?

We’ve implemented several initiatives that have been particularly effective in improving recruitment, retention, and advancement of women in cybersecurity. These initiatives provide a template that organizations and society can adapt and adopt.

WiCyS has developed comprehensive initiatives to support women throughout their cybersecurity careers. Recruitment efforts include scholarships and grants that make education and conference participation more accessible, alongside career fairs and job boards that connect women with employment opportunities in cybersecurity.

To retain talent, WiCyS offers mentorship programs with seasoned professionals and professional development resources like webinars and certification programs.

For career advancement, leadership training prepares women for senior roles, while recognition and awards highlight their achievements, inspiring others and contributing to a culture that values and promotes women’s contributions in cybersecurity.

Throughout the years I’ve often heard women in the industry remarking that getting women into the cybersecurity field presents a lesser problem than getting them to stay and, more importantly, thrive in the long run. While I’m aware that this is anecdotal evidence, what likely solutions does WiCyS perceive from its specific vantage point?

Retention and career growth are huge hurdles for women in cybersecurity. Our recent research has identified the top four issues in the workplace for women – Respect, Career and Growth, Access and Participation, and Recognition.

Our mentorship and sponsorship initiatives bridge the gap between seasoned professionals and those new to the industry. This not only offers guidance but also builds a network of advocacy crucial for career advancement.

Professional development is another piece of our strategy. We provide ongoing training to ensure women’s skills are top-notch and their career paths are upward.

Networking opportunities provided through WiCyS events serve as vital platforms for building supportive professional communities, a practice that could be replicated within corporate environments to help increase retention. Leadership development is prioritized to counter the shortage of female role models in cybersecurity, urging organizations to clear the path for women to lead.

WiCyS also champions work-life balance, advocating for flexible working conditions that cater to the diverse needs of women at various life stages. The organization also ensures that women’s achievements in cybersecurity are recognized and valued, enhancing visibility and recognition within the community.

For real change, organizations need to take deliberate, comprehensive actions to meet the unique needs of women in cybersecurity. Backed by leadership, these strategies are essential for fostering a space where women don’t just participate in cybersecurity but excel and drive it forward.

How has the landscape within which WiCyS is operating changed since the organization’s inception?

We’ve seen a real boom in the demand for cybersecurity talent, fueled by the growing number of cyber threats and the vital role of digital infrastructure. Alongside this, there’s been a refreshing shift in how the industry views diversity. It’s becoming clear that having varied perspectives in the team leads to better problem-solving and more creative innovations.

Education in cybersecurity has really opened up, with schools and universities now offering everything from short courses to full-blown degrees, making it easier for more people to get into this field. And it’s not just the academic world that’s stepping up: businesses and governments are also pouring more into cybersecurity, with a keen focus on nurturing diversity.

At WiCyS, we’ve been quick to respond to these changes, constantly updating our training and resources to make sure our members are ready to face the latest cyber challenges. Thanks to the digital age, networking and mentorship have gone global, enabling our WiCyS community to connect and collaborate no matter where they are.

And on the advocacy front, we’ve been busy pushing for more inclusion of women and other underrepresented groups in cybersecurity, showcasing the real value of diversity in this space.

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