International Women's Day 2021: Michelle Nguyen, Cyberjutsu

This is part of a running series for #IWD2021. We sat down with women leaders across the industry for a Q&A to get their insights on the state of women in cybersecurity. Recognize Women Leaders in the 2021 Tech Ascension Awards.


Michelle Nguyen, Board Member, Women's Society of Cyberjutsu:


How has the women workforce in cybersecurity evolved over recent years?


There are many organizations that have been working very hard to help women enter and succeed in cybersecurity in recent years, and we are seeing these efforts start to pay off. While women are still significantly underrepresented, the number of women has trended up from 14% in 2017 to 24% in 2019. Where is it heading?

Studies have shown that diversity at the executive level increases profitability and fosters engaged teams, yet just 1% of women in cybersecurity hold a C-suite role. With the number of women in cybersecurity increasing, we will see more initiatives to sponsor women into leadership roles as companies recognize that having both strong cybersecurity programs and women leaders positively impact the bottom line. What advice would you give to young women looking to enter into cybersecurity?

Go for it! Women can be intimidated by a false sense of being underqualified or lacking certain education and certification requirements, but a lot of times, those things can be learned on the job. What is most needed are the soft skills that many women can bring to the job: excellent communication skills, ambition, drive, and other natural-born talents. How can we get more women involved in cybersecurity?

Make job requisitions more inclusive by removing barriers to entry such as certifications. Some CISOs I work with have started to put this to practice to increase the diversity of their talent pool. Within a company, cybersecurity organizations can also bring awareness to cyber roles with cross-functional projects and training. For example, a cybersecurity team at a healthcare organization I worked with opened up an Identity and Access Management project to other teams within the company and got participants who were women from their internal Finance and HR teams.


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