Women Helping Women In CyberSecurity (WiCyS)
Submitted by: Dawn Kristy
Recently, I had the pleasure of interviewing Lynn Dohm, Executive Director at Women in CyberSecurity (WiCyS).
We began by looking at the historical development of WiCyS. What started as a grassroots organization by Dr. Ambareen Siraj in Tennessee Tech, with one faculty and a group of students and staff, grew with funding from the NSF, serving over 900 women in only two years, then becoming a 501(c)3 non-profit organization in August 2018.
In October 2019, Dr. Siraj requested Lynn Dohm to apply for the Executive Director position. Dohm stated, “it was an honor to be selected by Dr. Siraj and the entire WiCyS Board of Directors to fill this role.”
Dohm explained “the WiCyS mission is to recruit, retain, and advance women in cybersecurity. But the real story here is the heart-based passion that runs through every woman involved in WiCyS.”
Indeed, the heart and energy within this organization are palpable – resulting in a positive impact on the cybersecurity community.
Domestic & International Growth
Carrying on the work of Dr. Siraj, Dohm explained how she and her team have achieved impressive wins in a short time. “We have had tremendous international growth, overcoming barriers globally, allowing for communities to connect, learn, and grow from one another.”
WiCyS has grown to 5,000 members, in 69 countries, with 129 student chapters, and 38 professional affiliates – including worldwide affiliates in Africa, Australia, Canada, France, India, the United Kingdom, and Pakistan.
Skill Development Training Programs
Dohm referred to the “grit and glory” needed for women who are anywhere from students to entry-level, to non-traditional career-changers, allowing them to navigate and advance in their cybersecurity pathway as they develop new skills.
“Promoting speaking and media opportunities provides a collective benefit to the field” added Dohm.
Dohm stressed that “reskilling and upskilling are necessary proactive steps to bring more women into the cybersecurity talent pipeline.”
When asked to pick a few “gems” of recent achievements, Dohm pointed out that “the creation of opportunities for women in cybersecurity is priceless, allowing women to do what they love and support themselves and the ability to change careers to enter and advance in the cybersecurity workforce.”
WiCyS attracts companies that engage to drive Diversity & Inclusion initiatives including their Tier 1 strategic partners: AWS, Bloomberg, Carnegie Mellon University Software Engineering Institute, Cisco, Facebook, Lockheed Martin, Microsoft, and Optum.
The WiCyS Annual Conference
Now regarded as a flagship conference for women in cybersecurity and the largest cybersecurity conference that has equal representation of both students and professionals, the WiCyS Annual Conference sells out in less than one day, and funds scholarships for the majority student attendees. Additionally, it provides Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) Fellowship Awards, Veterans Fellowship Awards, and faculty lodging grants.
Veterans’ Apprenticeship Program
WiCyS brings together women and supporters to develop cybersecurity skills to advance female veterans. Dohm explained “since military careers align well with cybersecurity jobs, we offer this innovative apprenticeship program as a gateway into a cybersecurity career. With cybersecurity job growth expected through 2030, this effort will help fill some of the gaps in much-needed cybersecurity talent.”
WiCyS has a foundational goal of mentoring women in cybersecurity roles. Dohm emphasized that “WiCyS is cultivating the community with all facets of inclusivity and relationships with peers.”
The twelve-month structural framework to up-skill and up-level women of all skill levels. The most recent cohort included nearly 900 women (185 mentors and 707 mentees).
This year, WiCyS is launching the 2021 WiCyS Mentorship program in the Fall, featuring a new matching platform allowing mentee-led matching for a more streamlined and engaging mentor/mentee experience.
As we wrapped up, Dohm added that “cybersecurity professionals are always developing, learning, and growing. Decreasing barriers in cybersecurity hiring requires having more folks in the pipeline with diversity and inclusion in mind.”