I attended a conference for Women in Cybersecurity this weekend which was quite the event, with students, educators and professionals from all parts of the country gathering to share their knowledge about this ever-evolving area. We have seen some very sophisticated attacks over the last several years, with each incident becoming more and more disastrous.
I was particularly interested in the keynote speakers because many of them, from prestigious companies such as Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, Google, IBM and Facebook, spoke on very specific topics that are currently impacting the way we live and function in our current hyper-sensitive yet vital security-conscious atmosphere.
During one keynote presentation, the two women who spoke were 30-year veterans in the defense and technology field, before ‘cybersecurity’ was even a term. There were about 500 individuals in the audience listening to their stories and absorbing their wisdom with respect to achievements, challenges and lessons learned over the years.
What was alarming, but not necessarily shocking, was a conversation I had with a fellow colleague following the keynote event. She said her table of 8 was filled with young students between 18-23. My colleague is around my age, late 40’s / early 50’s. She stated that all the girls were complaining that they didn’t understand what the women (keynote speakers) were talking about. “Work-life balance, overcoming adversity, having it all or not having it all? What does that even mean?” they would say in a perplexed manner. It was sad to think that this was difficult to comprehend in their minds. Perhaps because their parents hadn’t suffered these particular challenges or situations in their own lives to impress upon them. My colleague, who I applaud, very kindly explained to them where these women were coming from and that it has not always been an easy road for females in our field to perservere whole still attempting to fulfill all the other aspects of our life, such as marriage (or divorce), raising children, finishing college and everything else. I was glad that she took the time to help them understand that life isn’t always so perfectly laid out for us as we enter the working world and that women must be prepared to face some obstacles in their career.
I think about my own daughter and how she may take certain aspects of life for granted as she prepares for her future career (even at a young age). It’s a delicate situation because as a mother and mentor, I certainly do not want to discourage her from pursuing her dream to become a scientist in a world where the field is still very much male-oriented. Quite the contrary. But I want her to be prepared for potential adversity and use the tools she’s learned from her female elders, leveraging examples of those who have achieved greatness in their fields. She is a determined though. Perhaps a small bit of ‘unawareness’ can help our younger generation shoot for the stars. Their inhibitions are lessened ano they become fearless. But a little preparation never hurts either.
My sincere thanks to the 2017 Women in Cybersecurity Conference planning committee for all their efforts in putting together such an incredible event. I encourage anyone in the field, male or female, to attend in the future regardless if this is your career path. It was insight, informative and inspiring! Visit the website to learn more: https://www.csc.tntech.edu/wicys/