Viviana Wesley, Managing Consultant at HALOCK, is used to being one of few women specializing in cybersecurity. But last week, for a change, she wasn’t alone. At the Women in Cybersecurity (WiCyS) Conference in Chicago, she was one of nearly a thousand participants from industry, academia, and areas of research who gathered for the organization’s fifth annual conference, designed to recruit, advance and retain women in that field.
The need for cybersecurity is gaining more prevalence as information security breaches and hacking threats make headlines daily. And companies are responding—the number of cybersecurity jobs are expected to grow 28% by 2026—a growth that is so fast, there won’t be enough candidates to fill the job.
That’s why it’s important to encourage people to consider careers in cybersecurity. For women, the need is even greater. While there is a shortage of women in technology, there is an even more significant shortage of women in cybersecurity, who hold only 11% of cybersecurity jobs globally.
That lack of representation doesn’t just hurt women in their career potential, it hurts companies because they aren’t benefitting from skills and perspectives offered by a more diverse team. “Women have unique soft skills that we can bring to information security and consulting,” Viviana explained. It’s a tricky industry when working on a trust but verify piece, trying to find weaknesses in the system in an effort to make it stronger, she said. “You need the emotional IQ involved to build trust and help people become better without being insulting,” she said.
Viviana’s example isn’t just anecdotal. When different viewpoints and skills are added to the mix, companies perform better. Multiple studies show that when companies are diverse, they have higher financial returns.
Conferences like WiCyS highlight the opportunities in cybersecurity and provide learning and networking for women and men. The two-day WiCyS conference appealed to newcomers and experienced technologists—high school and college students, academics and business professionals. With over 350 organizations attending as well, the conference covered a variety of topics with workshops on threat intelligence and network forensics; panel discussions on how mistakes can lead to technological breakthroughs, and diversity in cybersecurity; keynotes on navigating the cybersecurity career field; career guidance with a resume clinic and career fair; and technical presentations on ethical thinking in cyberspace and Twitter spam detection.
For Viviana, the decision to attend the conference was easy. With HALOCK as a sponsor, the opportunity to participate, especially to provide career information, was too good to pass up.
Representing HALOCK at the career fair, Viviana used her insights to help provide career direction to participants. “I feel we all need to do a part in educating the public more on what is needed in information security skills,” she said. Viviana noticed that many of the students she spoke with were reaching the end of their college education, but weren’t yet sure what they want to do. “There isn’t a good platform or way to figure out what are some entry level type positions in information security that they could be prepared to take on,” she said. Conferences like WiCyS, with its mentoring component, resume clinic and career fair help fill that gap.
“My hope is that people took away a sense of belonging to a community, resources, opportunities, mentors/mentees, career goals and advice,” said Dr. Ambareen Siraj, WiCyS Founder and Conference Chair.
Viviana said that for her, participating in this conference was a reflection of what HALOCK tries to do for its clients. “HALOCK always wants to help clients be better off—to help them be better organizations. We can’t do that without providing people with the education they need to make better choices. Anytime I can participate in something that promotes education or people in this industry, it’s a great opportunity to do so.”