SynED, a national non-profit focused on education, today released Agents of Change: 100 Women in 100 Days, the second in a series of reports that provide a roadmap on how individuals, organizations and communities address systemic barriers or challenges in our education and workforce training systems and take action.
“This new series provides a guide on the critical components of successful innovations done at a local level and provides practitioners and policymakers alike useful insights and tools they can leverage to connect people to careers of their choice in their own communities,” said Scott Young, President and Executive Director, SynED.
Volume 2 of Agents of Change focuses on the approach of Carmen Marsh, founder of the 100 Women in 100 Days Cybersecurity Career Accelerator. When she started her own cybersecurity career more than 20 years ago, Carmen was the only woman on a team of several hundred information security engineers. She expected the number of women in cybersecurity to grow over time but several years ago, Carmen finally had had enough. She remembers thinking, “Where are all the women?” Her initial question led her on a journey to attract, educate and move women into cyber careers.
There is a well-documented shortage of cybersecurity professionals in the United States and beyond, but the picture is more complex than just the number of open positions. While women are underrepresented in cybersecurity, studies show that they have relational and professional skills that make them perfectly suited for the work.
In addition, greater diversity of cybersecurity professionals in and of itself will benefit the security of companies, governments and consumers. A lack of gender diversity is a lack of diversity of thought, and complex cybersecurity challenges demand more than just “group think” solutions. Unfortunately, existing marketing strategies for training programs and cybersecurity careers do not appeal to women at a broad scale.
To counter the narrative of the typical cybersecurity professional, Ms. Marsh started an annual award, Cybersecurity Woman of the Year, to showcase real life examples of highly successful women working in cybersecurity.
“These role models are everyday women just like all of us, but they do extraordinary work in cyber,” Ms. Marsh said. “But the most important part is to give women enough information about what jobs there are in cybersecurity so they can start asking questions and find out that it interests them. Until then, we will always have a lack of women in cyber.”
The 100 Women in 100 Days program guides cohorts of 100 women through intensive cybersecurity education while providing robust support, community building, and hands-on experience.
The typical 100 Women in 100 Days participant is currently in the field or has had a decade or more of work experience, though not in cybersecurity. While some have worked in cyber-adjacent fields like software development and Information Technology, participants are just as likely to have been a wine buyer or a hairdresser.
“With 100 Women in 100 Days, there was more information, there was more guidance, I was able to network and understand more what I had signed up for,” Eva Baaza, a participant, said. “I feel like I’ve gained so much more, in just the time I’ve been in the program, than I ever did in all my university years.”
The 100 Women in 100 Days program’s success shines a spotlight on shortcomings of current education and workforce development systems when it comes to equipping people for careers in cybersecurity and computer technology.
“The reason that Carmen’s program gets so many applicants is because it is geared towards women,” said Sharee English, co-founder of WECybr, a women-owned and operated cybersecurity consulting business that helped design the early instruction portion of the program. “I do think that in general, when you have any group that is together, that shares something in common, like wanting to change careers, it really creates a bond that allows people to find strength in that and get through that. And I think that is probably the biggest benefit that these programs can provide.”
As 100 Women in 100 Days builds on its success and expands its reach with each cohort of 100 women, it is providing a model that policymakers can learn from and practitioners can replicate in their own communities and industries.