NYU conference encourages women to pursue cybersecurity

The NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering hosted a cybersecurity conference to help foster interest in the field among young women and teens.
The NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering hosted a cybersecurity conference to help foster interest in the field among young women and teens.

Cybersecurity's the “it” tech field of the moment, there's no doubt about that, with multiple major breaches in just the past couple years and a newfound emphasis on security in both the private and public sectors.

A report released today, for example, found that in 2014, there were more than 200,000 cybersecurity-related job postings in the U.S., which accounted for 11 percent of all IT jobs and a growth three times faster than IT jobs overall from 2010 to 2014.

With this rapid expansion in mind, the organizers behind the NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering's “Career Discovery in Cyber Security: A Women's Symposium” created a day's worth of programming to foster growth, conversation and learning among young women and teens interested in the field.

Many attendees were still in high school, and most were looking to explore cybersecurity and learn what a career in it could entail.

“[Cybersecurity] is a very hot field and needs talent,” said Judith Germano, an NYU adjunct professor and lawyer, told SCMagazine.com at the conference. “It builds awareness and helps [these young women] find their way into that [career] pipeline.”

Topics varied, but many focused on navigating the cybersecurity world while also being a female in the industry.

Carol Suchit-Hudson, technology manager, worldwide information security at Johnson & Johnson, discussed multiple topics during her morning session, but especially focused on discrimination and handling marginalization.

She cited her own experiences, including being asked to fetch coffee and take notes during meetings, as times she needed to defend herself and her place “at the table.”

“In the circumstances when someone is marginalizing you, they might, in a twisted way, think they're complimenting you,” she said. “Someone's idea of a compliment isn't always your idea of a compliment.”

Suchit-Hudson said in the cases when an uncomfortable comment is made, a woman can either correct the person with an explanation of why it's not an acceptable thing to say, or, judging the situation, make a joke of the matter while still shutting the person down.

She also stressed the importance of asking questions and not “self-bullying,” which women tend to do. She reminded that most everyone will, at one point, lack self-confidence but some are better at hiding it than others.

“When you don't feel confident, fake it,” she said.

Kelly Lum, security engineer at Tumblr, seconded this sentiment saying that many women often “underestimate their abilities.”

“Nobody is going to make fun of you if you give something a shot and don't like it,” Lum said.

Overall, the message of the day was clear: don't be afraid to give cybersecurity a shot and find a place in the industry.

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