Organization to Empower Women in Cybersecurity – The GW Hatchet

Updated: Wednesday, November 16, 2022 at 10:26 a.m.

A student organization has worked to empower women and non-binary students in cybersecurity by facilitating career opportunities this fall.

Student Leaders of Women in Cybersecurity, or WiCyS, the GW chapter of a world organization, said they aimed to help undergraduate and graduate students find cybersecurity internships and prepare for cybersecurity careers. WiCyS leaders said 71 students are registered as members and plan to continue holding weekly meetings this year to expand membership, in addition to having a table at the University Student Center for September Women’s Organizations Fair and verbally introduce the club to peers.

Darika Shaibekova, a graduate computer science student and co-chair of WiCyS, said she decided to help create the organization, which was approved in March, after noticing a lack of resources for women and non-binary people. to find internships in related fields. She said their main goal is to help students, especially undergraduates, get into the cybersecurity field by helping them kick-start their careers.

“We just didn’t know who to turn to, and that’s why we started this organization on campus, to help students get internships, teaching them cybersecurity 101,” she said.

According to GW registration data, 117 women were registered in computer science master and bachelor programs in 2021. Women Craft up 24% in cybersecurity workforce.

Shaibekova said that WiCyS plans to organize events with private companies who sponsor the organization for members to network with.

“We recruit and provide resources like getting internships and networking,” she said. “We also helped them apply for scholarships to attend conferences, so they could expand their network.”

Lena Rose, a graduate student in security policy and another co-chair of the organization, said WiCyS strives to “empower” women and non-binary people in the field of cybersecurity. Rose said the organization discusses ways to overcome the potential “impostor syndrome” and self-doubt that women and non-binary people experience due to the lack of representation they face on the ground and encourage members to continue to seek opportunities.

“Being part of this community is really a confidence boost for a lot of people,” Rose said. “We’re letting people know that we’re here to make an impact in cybersecurity. It’s a recurring theme at this club.

Rose said she has been in touch with the president of American University’s WiCyS chapter and eventually hopes to organize a joint event. There are 150 WiCyS student chapters around the world and student chapter presidents are guaranteed scholarships to attend the annual WiCyS conference, where they can connect with other chapters.

“I think the combination of the two clubs would definitely strengthen the presence of women in cybersecurity in the DC area,” she said.

Student leaders said they organized an event to help other students apply for scholarships to attend the WiCyS conference.

Carmela Gonzales, second-year graduate student and WiCyS Strategy Chair, said her responsibilities involved managing partnerships with collaborating organizations and sponsors. She said her goal is to help others grow professionally through events like study groups and weekly town halls, where the organization’s leaders host roundtable discussions on technical topics like cyberattacks and political issues such as China’s rise as a tech superpower are shaping the future. of the cyber industry.

“I really hope that students can develop their own personal, professional and academic identity,” Gonzales said. “I want them to discover the narrative for themselves and provide opportunities if that’s the path they want.”

Gonzales said she helped launch the GW chapter after a personal mentor connected her with the other students on the board at a WiCyS conference in Denver in 2020.

“The conference had a huge impact on me,” she said. “As I was already heading towards the senior year, I felt that I didn’t have enough time to start a club. I told myself that when I started my higher studies, I would give it to the next one.

Emily Zimmermann, senior, specializing in international affairs with a concentration in Asia and Chinese and a member of WiCyS, said she attended the weekly meetings and study sessions, and that the leaders were very “welcoming” and “friendly”.

She said the organization’s events gave her the opportunity to meet other women in a male-dominated field.

“Carmela helped me a lot with job applications,” she said. “I got to meet some really nice people at his company who really helped me figure out what I want to do.”

Zimmermann said she is interested in US-China relations, specifically focusing on technological security. She said she learned through her involvement with WiCyS that cybersecurity positions relating to China are in high demand, due to the increase relevance cybersecurity in US-China relations.

Zimmermann said she can see herself fitting into a career down this path, and she’s applied for jobs at companies like Intel and Verizon to work in their international government affairs or regulatory teams.

“I never really thought about it before,” she said. “I had no idea cybersecurity was such an important topic in international business.”

This post has been updated to correct the following:
In a previous version of this article, The Hatchet misspelled Gonzales’ name once. His name is now spelled correctly throughout the story. We regret this error.

Virginia S. Braud