Recruiting, retaining, and advancing women in cybersecurity — WiCyS 2023

As our lives become increasingly digitalized, cybersecurity has never been more important. The predicted cost of cybercrime is estimated to hit $8 trillion this year and $10.5 trillion by 2025, according to Cybersecurity Ventures.  

It is vital to have skilled cybersecurity professionals to help keep data and information safe from hackers and other external threats. Demand for information security analysts and security engineers are projected to grow 35% from 2021-2031, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and show no signs of slowing down. 

Building a stronger gender-diverse workforce  

The Women in Cybersecurity organization (WiCyS) strives to ensure that more women are a part of this important need for cybersecurity professionals.

Cybersecurity Ventures reported that women hold 25 percent of cybersecurity jobs globally in 2022. WiCyS is on a mission to “help build a strong gender-diverse cybersecurity workforce by facilitating recruitment, retention & advancement for women in the field.” Part of these efforts include an annual Women in Cybersecurity conference to help bring together current experts in industry and those aspiring to grow as professionals in the field.  

Industry leaders, students, and faculty come together at WiCyS to connect, learn, and grow professionally through workshops, panels, networking opportunities, career connections, resume clinics, mock interviews, and more. 

This year, five computer science & software engineering students were awarded scholarships from the University of Washington Bothell School of STEM to attend this premier cybersecurity conference. 

Student scholarships to attend the WiCyS conference 

For Tammy Le (pictured to the right), a senior bachelor’s student, the WiCyS conference was her first solo trip and experience at a conference.

“Being surrounded by a global community of women, allies, and advocates in the field of cybersecurity was a very empowering and inspiring experience for me,” said Tammy.  

“I gained valuable insights, and also got to learn about the experiences of others and develop a sense of community and support.”  

Many of the students who attended are thinking of a career in cybersecurity after graduation. Master’s student Margaret Lanphere reflects on how “it was very valuable to have this experience at this critical time with just a year left of my master’s degree.” 

WiCyS was the first women-focused professional event Margaret has been to. “It’s great to see that UW Bothell is investing in the success of its students by sending us to conferences to learn and network.” 

This was also the first computer science conference that master’s student Chloe Ma attended with a scholarship.  

“This means a great deal to me as it signifies validation, support, and empowerment for my journey in computer science. This recognition enhances my belief in my potential to succeed in the new field as I’m going through my career transition from civil engineering,” said Chloe.  

Making industry connections  

During a conference dinner, Chloe connected with a keynote speaker who shared their similar experience pivoting from the construction industry to the technology field. “Hearing from someone who has been there and achieved success is really encouraging.” 

Chloe’s favorite part of the conference was the Career Village where sponsors offer one-on-one resume reviews and career advice. She got the chance to speak to companies who were looking for cybersecurity talent, such as Amazon, Adobe, Google, Bloomberg, and Asurion.  
“This is a unique opportunity for me to ask all my questions and learn from experienced professionals and hiring managers.”  

Lily Aguirre, a senior bachelor’s student (pictured with Tammy to the right), got the opportunity to network with the Palo Alto company to discuss future job opportunities and ways they could be part of a WiCyS student chapter at UW Bothell. 
Lily also got some advice from them on how students with a computer science background can still pursue a career in cybersecurity. “I think this will be very helpful for our coming members in the club here at UW Bothell.” 

WiCyS student chapter coming to UW Bothell 

Plans are in the works to make a bigger impact and develop a student chapter at UW Bothell to better support women and allies in cybersecurity.  

“As vice president of the WiCyS club that we’re starting at UW Bothell, along with the other club officers, it was really helpful to attend to learn from the national organization on how we can help other female students succeed in this male-dominated field,” said Margret. 

Associate Professor Marc Dupuis is helping students create a Women in Cybersecurity chapter at UW Bothell. Dr. Dupuis attended the 2023 WiCyS conference along with the student scholars. “The WiCyS conference was unlike anything I had experienced before,” said Dupuis.  
“Observing the future WiCyS club officers attend an event that focused on the advancement and empowerment of women in cybersecurity was particularly powerful, especially as I think about the opportunities I want to make sure exist for the women of the future, including my own daughter.” 

The role of a WiCyS chapter is to “help decrease the gender disparity in the field, while providing support, mentorship, training, networking opportunities and access to industry and academic leaders.” The upcoming UW Bothell WiCyS chapter has submitted club formation paperwork and expects it to be formalized in the coming weeks. 

“UW Bothell is well-positioned geographically and academically to serve the high demand for cybersecurity professionals in our region and beyond,” said Dupuis. 

The School of STEM Division of Computing & Software Systems’ goal is to always be responsive to the changing cybersecurity landscape and the challenges it poses. “One of the best ways to do that is to ensure we are empowering those that have been traditionally under-represented in the computing disciplines as they bring important and unique perspectives required to effectively meet these challenges,” Dupuis continued.  

“The formation of a WiCyS chapter at UW Bothell is an important step in that direction.”