Who can forget the backlash to last year's RSA Conference, at which at first only one woman was on its lineup of keynote speakers? As a result, organizers are keeping a particularly close eye on diversity, and all-male panels have been banned.
Let me be clear: The issue of finding an equal number of female speakers or diversifying the industry isn't a numbers game. Rather, it's critical to the expansion, growth, and sophistication of our industry and trade.
Diversity isn't just different appearances or labels. It's beyond that. It's about diversity of thought, the differences in our problem-solving processes and perspectives — and it is a critical component of true innovation.
Some have argued that since women make up 20% of the cybersecurity workforce, it's difficult to find qualified speakers among them in the first place. It is important to acknowledge this massive gender gap in cybersecurity, along with a massive skills gap, too. Perhaps solving one can help solve the other. It starts with highlighting the minority and female professionals and leaders who are working today to move our industry further.
There are plenty of highly qualified individuals to choose from. Below, I've curated a list of highly qualified women who I think make any excuse for inequity obsolete. These are the women who are writing and talking about the issues that are important, and who have real, tangible impact. I've also seen three of them speak last year at the OurSA security conference and have been following their views since.
Co-Founder and Managing Partner, 406 Ventures
Former cybersecurity CEO-turned-venture-capitalist, Maria is widely successful and well-known in the infosec industry. Her 25-plus years of experience in building and starting technology companies includes Massachusetts IPOs of the Year and the founding of two successful companies and a venture capital firm.
Director of Cybersecurity, Electronic Frontier Foundation
Eva is primarily focused on providing privacy and security for vulnerable populations around the world. In a technology ecosystem not necessarily designed for them, she helps educate these communities through her political science and technical background.
Surveillance and Cybersecurity Counsel, ACLU
Jennifer works with the ACLU Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project. She litigates, speaks, and writes about privacy, security, technology, and constitutional rights. As an acclaimed author and expert in law, Jennifer fights for civil liberties in an age of massive surveillance and digital technology. She can answer the question of what a culture of government surveillance actually has to do to society and our rights, and how it is portrayed in the world, and the ethical implications.
Anna Lauren Hoffmann
Writer, Researcher, Educator at The Information School at the University of Washington
Anna specializes in issues that impact real people in the intersection of data, technology, culture, and ethics. She pays particular attention to the ways discourse, design, and uses of information technology work to promote or hinder the pursuit of important values (think: respect and justice).
Cathy is the author of "Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy." She's a mathematician-turned-quantitative-analyst-turned-data-scientist who has given TED talks and is an established expert in her field. Her book has been a New York Times bestseller and long-listed for the National Book Award.
We are in a unique position to improve and mature our industry. This change should be embraced as an opportunity to focus on diversifying our security thought leaders and listening to their experiences and points of view as they propel us forward. Our world is rapidly evolving. Threats are more becoming sophisticated, and the work is never-ending. Together — with an environment of inclusivity and collaboration — we can combat them.
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