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Women Warriors Sought for Battle Against Cyber Attackers (2012)

Monday, December 15, 2014   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Mari Galloway
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Women Warriors Sought for Battle Against Cyber Attackers

By Paul Warren, U.S. News University Directory

 

For decades, computers have been used to control the nation’s vital infrastructure, such as power distribution and water treatment systems. Today, an increasing volume of our daily activities – from shopping to banking and healthcare – is conducted over the World Wide Web. With ever more systems and mechanisms relying on the Internet, however, society’s vulnerability to hackers and other cyber attackers is also rising.

 

As this conflict expands and evolves, there will be a growing demand for cybersecurity professionals.

 

In October 2012, U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta said that one of the most important investments America can make is in training “skilled cyber-warriors.” He said the Internet is a “battlefield of the future where adversaries can seek to do harm to our country, to our economy, and to our citizens.”

 

In addition, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry recently equated cyber threats with the dangers posed by nuclear weapons.

 

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of information security analysts nationwide is projected to grow by 22% through 2020, a rate that’s more than 50% higher than the average job growth for all occupations. The average salary for information security analysts was almost $82,000 in May 2011.

 

The past several years have brought a major push to swell the number of cybersecurity professionals. The

Center for Strategic & International Studies, a Washington, D.C., think tank, reports that the Defense Department is calling for up to 30,000 additional workers. In 2009, the U.S. Cyber Challenge was launched with the goal of identifying 10,000 youngsters with the skills to eventually become cybersecurity professionals.

 

Bridging the Cybersecurity Gender Gap

 

Even with the promise of abundant career opportunities, women remain under-represented in the ranks of cybersecurity professionals.

 

Across all occupations, women account for about half of the nation’s workers, the BLS reports. However, several studies have pegged the percentage of women in cybersecurity much lower, which is partly a reflection of under-representation at the college level. For example, women accounted for 57% of all bachelor’s degrees awarded in 2008 but only 18% of computer and information science degrees, according to a report by the National Center for Women & Information Technology.

 

That’s not to say women are absent from the top ranks of cybersecurity and IT. As executive vice president of Information Systems and Global Solutions for Lockheed Martin, Linda Gooden leads about 30,000 employees who support missions for defense, intelligence and other government services. In 2010, President Barack Obama named Gooden to the National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee.

 

Lockheed Martin is among the corporations and public agencies working at the K-12 level to boost the number of women in the male-dominated cybersecurity field. Research has shown that boys and girls demonstrate a similar level of interest in science and technology during elementary school, but girls’ interest levels drop steadily through middle and high school.

 

To combat this, the National Science Foundation and other partners sponsor various programs for students, including Cool Careers in Cybersecurity for Girls workshops. At the daylong events, middle school girls hear from cyber professionals about topics such as digital forensics and computer assembly.

 

At the professional level, meanwhile, organizations such as the Women’s Society of Cyberjutsu seek to foster cybersecurity career opportunities for women by offering education, mentoring, resource sharing and networking.

 

At the Women in International Security conference in October 2012, U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano said her agency is seeking to build a diverse workforce of cybersecurity professionals.

 

“To succeed as a department, and as a nation, we must draw on the skills and talents of the broadest range of Americans – men and women who want to serve the public good and contribute to our mission,” Napolitano said on her agency’s website.

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