Cyber women on the Hill
Cyber women on the Hill

On May 16, 2017, the Executive Women's Forum on Information Security, Risk Management & Privacy hosted the inaugural EWF Cybersecurity Women on Capitol Hill Public Private Symposium. This historic gathering of 125 women cybersecurity executives was the first ever of its kind.

EWF delegates gathered in the spectacular Congressional Auditorium and participated in presentations from industry thought leaders and senior Congressional staff members including the Senate Armed Services and House Homeland Security Committees. The afternoon was spent with over 20 personal bipartisan meetings with Congressional, Senate staff and committee members. The day concluded with the presentation of the EWF Leadership Award to Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee who sponsored the event.

EWF cybersecurity executives shared their expertise as well as established a platform for ongoing collaboration. The response to the inaugural EWF Capitol Hill event has been tremendous – a fact that the EWF attributes to being at the nexus of women, cybersecurity, diversity and workforce development

In EWF Founder, Joyce Brocaglia's opening remarks  [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lYBN5nonJOc ] she details why the EWF has spent the past 15 years dedicated to engaging, developing and advancing women leaders in cybersecurity. .

The EWF and its members understand, that the under-representation and under-utilization of female talent is both a critical business issue and a hindrance to the development of world class cybersecurity programs, resilient companies, as well as the overall safety and protection of our great country. 

The fact is that the cybersecurity workforce is estimated to have a deficit of 1.8 million employees by 2020.  With this shortage of talent, we will never remain competitive, secure our financial markets and our critical infrastructure and ensure our national defense by ignoring half of the population that is women.

Women play a tremendously important role in the cybersecurity workforce and the EWF believes they play an equally important role in solving this problem

Citing statistics from the Women in Cybersecurity Report co-authored by EWF and ISC2, Joyce Brocaglia notes that women in the cybersecurity workforce have remained stagnant for the past 5 years at 11%. Over 50% of the women surveyed reported various forms of discrimination, 28% don't feel valued at work and women of all levels were paid less than men even though they hold more advanced degrees. Finally Men are 4 times more likely to hold executive level positions and there are 9 times more men in management roles than women.   These stats show it's not just one thing holding women back it's the confluence of all of these events that is having a negative impact on women progressing and succeeding in the cybersecurity workforce.  

Corporations need to take an active role in creating cultures that value diversity. That includes requiring their hiring managers to interview a diverse slate of candidates, ensuring that women are included on interview panels and checking that their job descriptions are unbiased. Having filled 40% of all its executive searches with women, Alta Associates, the leading executive search firm in cybersecurity and Thought Leadership partner of the Capitol Hill event is proof that when Corporations prioritize diverse recruiting practices, they can accomplish significant results.

Most importantly, studies show that truly investing in leadership development programs earlier on in women's careers and enrolling them in formal mentoring and sponsorship programs correlate to women feeling valued and lead to their success and retention.

Retention of talent is just as important as skill set development or recruitment.

The bottom line is that fixing the gender gap will be a big part of fixing the talent gap, which is one of the reasons why the Executive Women's Forum hosted the symposium and are poised to be part of the solution.

The Executive Women's Forum is a collection of talent, experience and perspectives that you will find nowhere else. The organization is a force multiplier of its member's actions. As such they plan to continue to act as a conduit between government and industry leaders by hosting this annual Cybersecurity Women on Capitol Hill day and offering programs and events that empower and inspire women leaders in cybersecurity for many years to come.


Joyce Brocaglia is the Founder of the Executive Women's Forum on Information Security Risk Management and Privacy and the CEO of Alta Associates, an executive search firm specializing in cybersecurity.