On the heels of RSA 2019 and International Women’s Day, I am proud to announce Morphisec’s second annual Women in Cybersecurity Scholarship. This year’s scholarship program offers three awards totaling $8,000 aimed at encouraging women studying cybersecurity and related STEM disciplines to choose a career in cyber and make a dent in the abysmally low female employment rate in the industry.
Like many observers of trends in tech, women’s marginality in cybersecurity has long been a subject of concern - both for the outlook on closing the gender gap and for the loss of innovation potential to the cybersecurity industry. The latest numbers place women’s employment in the field at 15-20% (when IoT security, digital forensics, audit and other security functions are taken into account), pulling the statistic up from the often cited 2013 statistic of 11% to match the 20% figure of the overall tech industry.
While this small albeit positive trend is encouraging, RSA’s misstep in its 2018 conference and subsequent attempt at course correction this year, provide a reminder of just how much work remains to be done. Last year, RSA organizers were slammed when the conference’s lineup displayed a notable lack of diversity: the only female keynote speaker on the roster was Monica Lewinsky who spoke on the subject of cyberbullying.
In response to the gender-skewed collection of speakers, women cybersecurity professionals rallied to create OURSA (Our Security Advocates) in under a week, featuring 15 speakers (14 of whom were female) from Facebook, Google, Twitter, DHS, Cloudfare, and more - calling into question whether the marked absence of women was truly a reflection of the women’s (lack of) contributions and abilities or a product of other considerations.
I am recently returned from RSA 2019, and there were some notable changes. While women’s bathroom lines continued to be non-existent during the 5-day conference, participants were presented with a panel titled “She Speaks Security”, dedicated to addressing the problem the conference itself claimed to be facing the year before - how to encourage more women to submit proposals for speaking engagements such as RSA.
For me personally and for Morphisec as a company, attracting more women to cybersecurity isn’t just a question of altering sad statistics - focusing on diversity is good for business. Varied backgrounds, experiences, education and leadership roles create a stronger infrastructure for innovation.
Our CEO, Ronen Yehoshua, put it this way: “Women are severely underrepresented in the field of cybersecurity to the detriment, we believe, of the industry as a whole. Morphisec would not be on the growth and innovation trajectory it is today without the amazing women on our team.”
While women face multiple barriers to entry into cybersecurity including the deep-seated perception that STEM disciplines in general - and cybersecurity in particular - are inherently masculine, I was lucky to get first-hand experience in the field during my time in the army.
Despite the fact that I was already set on a different path, a group of bright, talented soldiers in a cyber unit opened me up to the world of computer science. As I watched their passion and dedication to working through challenges and experienced the thrill of seeing my own code run, I knew I was hooked. Today, my time in the army marks the first step in building the foundational knowledge that has accompanied me in my career over the past two decades.
As chairperson of Morphisec’s Women in Cybersecurity Scholarship Committee, it gives me hope that we received nearly 100 applicants from women studying in fields related to cybersecurity in 2018. In addition to the US and Israel, this year’s scholarships will also to be open to European students.
In order to apply, applicants must be permanent residents or citizens of the US, an EU-member country, or Israel and enrolled in Cybersecurity, Information Assurance, Information Security, Information Systems Security or other cybersecurity-related STEM disciplines.
Applicants will be required to complete a short essay and submit an online cyber challenge. Finalists will receive awards in the following amounts:
- 1st Place - $5,000
- 2nd Place - $2,000
- 3rd Place - $1,000
All applications must be submitted through this form by June 15th, 2019.
According to Cybersecurity Ventures, there will be as many as 3.5 million job openings in cybersecurity by 2021, and the need for qualified professionals in the field is only slated to grow. The time is ripe for women and other historically underrepresented groups to bring their voices to the table and be part of the rapidly-growing opportunities in this sector.
I look forward to seeing the positive impact of inclusion and diversity in our field and hope to partner with other members of the industry who value a stronger, more resilient, and innovative cybersecurity sector that has room for all of our voices.