Lisa Foreman has made it her mission to ensure that more women and girls not only enter the information security field, but feel at home there.
That’s why, just over two years ago [May 2012], Foreman founded the Women Society of Cyberjutsu, a northern Virginia-based nonprofit cyber security community organization for women. Foreman herself has 18 years of IT experience – the past dozen of which are in cyber security – mostly working as a U.S. military and government contractor doing policy development, risk assessment and penetration testing. But her big dream to help advance women in information security by promoting networking education, mentoring, resource-sharing and opportunities came to fruition when she decided to found her nonprofit.
“What I envisioned when I was drawing this up was a community for women… All this time I’m in the field and trying to learn these things and, while I am very driven, there were a lot of roadblocks,” Foreman says. “I wanted to build a community where women felt comfortable and create a safe environment for learning. Cyber security is one of those specialty fields that requires a lot of training, and sometimes it’s hard to usher women through to jobs. We do everything and anything we can to help.”
Foreman, a self-professed wannabe ethical hacker since childhood, in fact named her group “Cyberjutsu” (which roughly translates to ‘the art of cyber’) to reflect the martial arts-like discipline that is required to rise through the ranks in information security. The group, which is awaiting 501c3 status, offers monthly cyber security workshops with well-established speakers, training courses and networking events where women can connect and share resources, and mentoring and internship and job placement programs. In addition, there is a Cyberjutsu Girls’ Academy, which runs a program aimed at getting middle school-age girls more interested in the STEM fields, specifically information security.
So far, the Women’s Society of Cyberjutsu has worked with 1,500 women across the world (300 of those as full-paying members of the group). In June, Foreman says, 70 girls finished the first cycle of the Girls’ Academy program of workshops. But Foreman has a big vision for the future of the WSC: She would like to expand to offer the same in-person services that are now available in Washington D.C. all across the country (for now the organization has ‘virtual’ chapters). She envisions a building with a classroom that could be shared with other women’s groups, hosting more workshops, and a laser tag area and a day care room.
Joe McCray, CEO and founder of Strategic Securities, an independent information security consultancy that Foreman worked for several years ago, has little doubt that she will achieve her goal. “Lisa is the make-it-happen girl,” he says. “She runs 100 miles an hour all the time. She is doing something our industry needs and something that is a big deal. Our industry is an industry of introverts, by nature, and what she’s doing flies in the face of that. It’s a really good thing.”