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Meet the 2019 Morphisec Women in Cybersecurity Scholarship Winners

Posted by Netta Schmeidler on August 7, 2019
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For the second year in a row, Morphisec has awarded three scholarships to top female students pursuing cybersecurity degrees around the world. The latest numbers still place women’s employment in the cybersecurity industry at only 24%, but the dedication and talent of the more than 400 applications that poured in from the United States, Europe and Israel are a testament to womens’ determination to change this statistic.

As a veteran of the Israeli tech industry and Morphisec’s VP Product, I have long found myself frustrated by the persistent under-representation of women in the field, and since 2017 have served as the chair of the Morphisec Women in Cybersecurity Scholarship Committee. This year, hundreds of women across borders and backgrounds shared their stories and skills with us, writing about their personal journey to cybersecurity and providing creative solutions to what was, for many, a first-of-its-kind cyber challenge.

Our Scholarship Committee was joined by guest judge Maria Thompson, State Chief Risk Officer (CRO) for the state of North Carolina, who, along with the other independent members of the panel, made the final determinations regarding this year’s candidates. Thompson frequently speaks on the subject of women in STEM and is a long-time advocate of advancing female representation in cybersecurity. Thompson - and the Committee at large - was genuinely wowed by applicants’ personal essays and the array of technical tools marshalled to solve the cyber challenge from Python, to IDA and Kali Linux.

Our first place winner, Huirui Washington, was awarded $5,000 in recognition of her exceptional commitment to cybersecurity, which she says represents a way to serve the country that has embraced her drive to succeed. Raised in LangQi Island, China, Huirui immigrated to the United States where she supported herself as a waitress before and during university. Today, an American citizen, she is on the brink of completing her MSc in Cybersecurity at Columbus State University. For Huirui, cybersecurity allows her to explore her “need to learn, grow, and improve... in the...growing battlefield that is the internet.”

Shira Ben Dor, our second place $2,000 winner, is the only woman in her accelerated two-year BSc program at Tel Aviv University sponsored by an elite Israel Defense Force unit.  Shira’s interest in cybersecurity began at a Google summer camp when Keren Elazari, a leading international figure in cybersecurity, spoke to the group of middle school girls. Since that fateful encounter with Elazari, Shira says, “I set a goal for myself to study the field of security comprehensively.” Today, Shira is well equipped to fulfill her aspirations and continues to pay forward the inspiration she received from her own mentors and role models as a lecturer at the Israeli Youth Science Olympiad.

Like so many faced with the choice in her freshman year of college, Jenna Lawrence vacillated between possible majors, considering Computer Science and Psychology. In the end, Jenna found that her real interest lay in data protection and switched to the cybersecurity program at Metropolitan State University of Denver in January 2019. Jenna is currently in the midst of a summer internship at Carve Systems in Denver and will be putting the extra boost from our third-place $1,000 scholarship towards her final semester of learning. “I am grateful to continue what I am passionate about,” she shared.

On behalf of the Morphisec Women in Cybersecurity Scholarship Committee, I would like to extend a special thank you to Maria Thompson. I wholeheartedly agree with her sentiment that all applicants should “be applauded for their work, but mostly the passion that they put forth in their essay. It does my heart good to read the testimony of these ladies as they became immersed in the world of cyber.”

We look forward to following the success of these talented young women as they continue to redefine norms for women in tech!