No Magic Wand

By Phil Reitinger

I spent Monday and Tuesday last week in Den Haag and Brussels, signing a Memorandum of Understanding with Europol and then meeting with European Commission officials and operators. It was a great visit from start to finish, and I saw a particularly interesting thing the second day.  Half of the EC-connected people we met with on cyber security were women.  I wonder if that would have been true even a few years ago.

The involvement of women in cyber security isn’t new.  In my own experience, the very first executive with whom I worked on cyber security was then Attorney General Janet Reno, and while she wasn’t a techie, she had a strong interest in technology and helped U.S. law enforcement to be as prepared as possible for the coming changes.  I worked for a number of other accomplished women over the following years – a Cabinet Secretary, Deputy Secretary, and corporate executive.

At GCA, a good chunk of the executive team, and the whole team, are women.  So is one of our Board members (Yurie Ito of CyberGreen).  But as a community, we still have a ways to go, especially when you get to the pure technical positions.  There are great women there, including some notable hackers (in the good sense); but a report last year from CREST studied the underrepresentation of women in cyber security, referring to an (ISC)2 workforce study that indicated only 10% of the global cyber security workforce are women.  If only 10% of the GCA workforce were women, we wouldn’t be able to run the organization, operate effectively in Europe, or communicate.

Changing this dynamic requires action on many levels, from the technical to the executive.  For example, the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre along with GCHQ has launched a cyber security technical competition for teenage girls “to find the best and brightest candidates to protect the nation from future cyber attacks.”  There are lots of words for that, but they are all synonyms of “awesome.”

You too can play a part.  Ensure women cyber security executives have access to the mentors and networks they (like any other executive) need – at GCA in the US, we use the Executive Women’s Forum.  Make sure professional development is available at all levels.

That’s all.  No magic wand, just hard work over the years to improve our industry.  Kind of like cyber security itself.

The author, Phil Reitinger, is the President and CEO of the Global Cyber AllianceYou can follow him on Twitter @CarpeDiemCyber.