On October 14, leaders in the burgeoning and increasingly important field of cybersecurity met to discuss the profession’s gender gap and suggest ways to bolster opportunities for women and young girls to enter the industry.

The "Women Leaders in Cybersecurity: Closing the Gender Gap" conference was organized by the NYU Center for Cybersecurity, a collaboration between NYU School of Law and NYU Tandon School of Engineering. Nasir Memon, a co-founder of the center, delivered the introductory remarks.

“This gender gap in STEM in computer science was always very visible to me,” Memon said, remembering how the problem came into focus after a conversation with his wife when they were both PhD students. “The saving grace for her was having a woman professor there. At that time, I realized this is a bigger problem than simply numbers.” Memon discussed how women leaders and mentors in STEM fields like cybersecurity are integral to closing the gender gap.

A group of women in cybersecurity convened for a day of panels and discussions about the future of their field. The speakers hailed from a wide range of industries, emphasizing the number of potential career tracks within cybersecurity. Brigadier General Jen Buckner of the US Cyber Command and Renee Forney, acting deputy chief information officer for the US Department of Energy, spoke about their careers in public service. Other panelists, such as Katherine Fithen, chief privacy officer at the Coca-Cola Company, and Sandie Ritucci, vice president of technology at Goldman Sachs, focused on opportunities in the private sector. Emily Vacher, director of trust and safety at Facebook, spoke about transitioning from her previous position as a supervisory special agent for the FBI to her current role at Facebook, and provided insight into both the public and private sectors.

The conference split up mid-day for a pair of question-and-answer sessions with experts. One focused on women in management and at senior levels, and another on entering cybersecurity and negotiating mid-career changes. “When you talk about ‘there are not enough people to fill the jobs,’ I jotted down some statistics for you,” said Joyce Brocaglia, founder and CEO of Alta Associates, referencing the rapid growth of cybersecurity. “There’s going to be 1.5 million unfilled cybersecurity jobs worldwide by 2019…. The industry is expected to grow 53 percent through 2018. That is quite the demand.”

Other participants included Adjunct Professor Zachary Goldman ’09, co-founder of the NYU Center for Cybersecurity; Judi Germano, a senior fellow at the NYU Center for Cybersecurity and NYU Law’s Center on Law and Security; and Emily Poole ’18, a Cyber Scholar at the NYU Center for Cybersecurity.

Watch the discussion with Brigadier General Jennifer Buckner (1 hr, 1 min):

Posted November 2, 2016