2018 conference in Chicago. Photo courtesy of WiCyS.

Even within a male-dominated field like the tech industry, the gender gap in the cybersecurity sector is striking.

According to research from the 2017 Global Information Security Workforce Survey, women make up about 14 percent of the cybersecurity workforce in the United States, and only 11 percent worldwide.

These gaps persist despite a shortage of cybersecurity professionals, leaving many experts concerned.

“A lot of our important critical systems are not as secure as we would like them to be,” says Dr. Lorrie Cranor, director and Bosch Distinguished Professor in Security and Privacy Technologies of CyLab and the FORE Systems professor of computer science and engineering and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University. “If half your population is not considering this as a viable career path, then you’re really cutting into the pool of available workers.” 

In that spirit, Carnegie Mellon will host the 2019 Women in Cybersecurity (WiCyS) conference next week at the Wyndham Grand Hotel in Downtown Pittsburgh. Running from March 28 through March 30, the symposium is aimed at supporting and connecting women working in this critically important and rapidly changing field.

Cranor is one of the keynote speakers at the summit along with Wendy Nather, head of the Advisory CISO team at Cisco’s Duo Security, and Michele Schochet, director of security at Facebook.

In addition to allowing professionals in academia, research and the private sector a chance to network, the three-day event will also include job information and tutorials for younger computer scientists looking to break in to the industry.

“In this field, as with many, having diversity is really useful for problem-solving and coming up with interesting solutions,” says Cranor. “It’s been shown that teams with both men and women on them make them stronger.”

CMU has been a leader in cybersecurity issues for several decades and serves as the home base for the CERT Coordination Center, a federally funded nonprofit that guides response to computer emergencies.

“It’s especially fitting for Carnegie Mellon University to host the 2019 WiCyS Conference because the university is known as the birthplace of cybersecurity,” says Dr. Greg Shannon,Chief Scientist for the CERT Division at Carnegie Mellon and a member of the WiCyS Board of Governors. “Our leadership in cybersecurity research and education continues to this day.”

Bill O'Toole

Bill O'Toole was a full-time reporter for NEXTpittsburgh until October, 2019. He previously reported in Myanmar.