Women continue to join cybersecurity workforce | TribLIVE.com

Women continue to join cybersecurity workforce

Nicole C. Brambila
Conference attendees at this year’s Women in Cybersecurity held in Pittsburgh mill around vendors at the career fair Friday.

Just five years ago, women working in cybersecurity accounted for fewer than 11 percent of those in the field. Now women represent 20 percent of those working in the profession, officials said at a conference Friday in Pittsburgh.

The three-day Women in CyberSecurity Conference kicked off Thursday at the Wyndham Grand Downtown, drawing more than 1,300 people. Carnegie Mellon University hosted the event.

Presenters Friday said solving cybersecurity’s big issues will require diversity in the field.

“This is an environment where we are welcome, where we’re celebrated, where we can network,” said Janell Straach, chair of the conference.

Concerned with the dearth of female professionals in cybersecurity, Ambareen Siraj, a Tennessee Tech University computer science professor, wanted to draw more women to the profession and address what she has called a pipeline issue.

Today, the Women in CyberSecurity Conference is a nonprofit organization with nearly 4,000 members and 52 student chapters.

The organization’s founding partners include Cisco and Facebook.

Among the conference speakers Friday were Lorrie Cranor, director of CyLab, CMU’s security and privacy institute and Michele Schochet, Facebook’s director of security.

Schochet shared with attendees Facebook’s layered approach to security, which includes the use of crowd sourcing to identify security threats. Over the past several years the social media giant has paid $7.5 million to users who identify exploits.

“It is impossible to write flawless codes without bugs,” Schochet said. “The threat landscape is evolving.”

About half of the conference attendees were students.

Miranda McClellan, a first-time attendee, was among them.

A master’s student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, or MIT, McClellan said she was drawn to the cyber security field because of the opportunity to do good without pushing out code that only helps with mundane tasks.

“This is a really impactful field, “McClellan said.

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