RIT women meet female leaders in cybersecurity
Women in male-dominated field of cybersecurity band together at annual conference
Twelve students, faculty and staff from Rochester Institute of Technology attended a conference designed to encourage more women to pursue careers in the growing field of cybersecurity.
Cybersecurity is a burgeoning area of computing, where the demand for trained professionals is much greater than the supply. However, just like in many other areas of computing, women are alarmingly underrepresented in this male-dominated field.
While at the 2015 Women in Cybersecurity conference in Atlanta, RIT’s attendees heard keynote addresses from women working at big-name organizations, including Facebook, the Department of Homeland Security and Microsoft. Jennifer Henley, director of security operations at Facebook, even met personally with RIT students to give advice about working in cybersecurity.
“Jennifer talked about the importance of every woman in cybersecurity having an ally in their work and efforts,” said Morgan Keiser, a first-year computing security major from Waterford, Pa. “Women have every bit as much to contribute to forwarding the future of security as men do and we should have a natural collaboration.”
The annual WiCyS event, held March 27–28, brings together hundreds of women in cybersecurity from academia, research and industry for sharing experiences, networking and mentoring. The workshops, talks, panels and discussions are aimed at raising awareness about the trends of cybersecurity and also to share experiences to highlight how women can have a successful and enriching career.
“It was heartening to find out that the challenges we face as students/professionals in a male-dominated field are not unique,” said Sumita Mishra, associate professor and graduate program director of computing security. “Others have overcome them and have been successful in their endeavors, despite facing similar challenges.”
At the conference, RIT students participated in networking and mentoring events, and a Capture the Flag competition that encouraged players to solve security puzzles in a safe and controlled environment. The RIT team was one of the top finishers in the event.
“I really loved this conference and it was a life-changing experience that opened all kinds of perspectives and opportunities that I didn’t know existed with this computing security degree,” said Keiser. “There is a whole world out there and these women are changing it for the better by doing what they love and find interesting.”
Computing security is an interdisciplinary field that brings in elements of computer science, mathematics, engineering, public policy and law, among others. RIT students studying in this field go on to jobs in almost every area, including government, industry and academia.
In 2012, RIT became one of the first universities in the nation to establish an academic department devoted solely to computing security. RIT has also been designated one of the National Centers of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance/Cybersecurity Education by the National Security Agency and Department of Homeland Security.
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