Over 1,300 Women Gather at Women in CyberSecurity Conference

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The Women in CyberSecurity conference boasted a record high attendance while implementing new activities and programs for participants.

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The WiCyS conference is a place where we celebrate and connect women in cybersecurity. This year's conference was no different. The energy and excitement of attendees was evident throughout the entire event.

The Women in CyberSecurity conference boasted a record high attendance while implementing new activities and programs for participants.

As more women and girls have discovered and entered the cybersecurity arena whether through education or by pursuing a career, the need to fuel that flame has been a priority for the Women in CyberSecurity (WiCyS) organization. Their work continues to inspire and grow, evidenced by the over 1,300 women who gathered at its latest conference, March 28-30, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

The three-day conference was chock full of various activities geared toward inspiring, motivating, educating and mentoring females of all ages who are students or working professionals. In its sixth year, the WiCyS conference was conceived through a grant that yielded nearly 400 participants. This year’s attendance surpassed last year’s by roughly 200. When the event was open for public registration, it sold out in 45 minutes and had over 400 women on the waitlist.

Part of the appeal is not only the scholarship opportunities — WiCyS has doled out $1.8 million over six years — but also the programming at this unique conference. New this year was a career village, where cybersecurity professionals gathered to have mock interviews, presented a resume clinic, had office hours with mentors and received a professional headshot for their LinkedIn profiles. The career fair had 90 vendors ready to receive resumes while WiCyS student chapters and affiliates hosted Meetups.

Another addition this year was the National Cyber League’s (NCL) Capture the Flag competition during the conference. NCL also opened up a help desk and hosted a pajama party, where women of all ages gathered in comfy clothes to kick back and receive advice and attention from the NCL team that included Kaitlyn Bestenheider, NCL chief player ambassador, as well as Franz Payer and Toby Lin, both from Cyber Skyline.

Attendees were treated to five dynamic keynote speakers that included Patricia Denno, vice president for Global Intelligence Operations, Enterprise Cybersecurity at Fidelity Investments; Dr. Dawn Beyer, senior fellow at Lockheed Martin; Dr. Lorrie Faith Cranor, director and Bosch Distinguished professor in Security and Privacy Technologies of CyLab and the FORE Systems professor of Computer Science and of Engineering and Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon University; Wendy Nather, head of the Advisory CISO team at Duo Security (now Cisco); and Michele Schochet, director of Security at Facebook.

The best part of this conference was the variety of experiences each individual could access. From technical presentations that highlighted innovations, service learning and outreach projects as well as five-minute lightning talks to workshops, Birds of a Feather (informal discussions), panel discussions and student posters contests, there was no shortage of resources and opportunities for growth.

“This was my first ever WiCyS conference, and it was the best conference I’ve ever been to in my life. To see so many women in one room, it really was powerful! It made me feel good about myself and how honored I was to be there,” said Te’Asia Butler, student and WiCyS chapter vice president from Prince George’s Community College. Being a student who wasn’t all that confident walking into a room of professionals was a little hard for me, but the way I walked out was totally different. My head was higher, shoulders were broader and confidence was out of this world. These women were nice, encouraging and like family to me. I can’t wait to get back to school and share my experience with my fellow WiCyS Chapter members. Hopefully next year, we can all attend.”

The success of the conference extended beyond the walls as chapters and affiliates watched keynote speakers on Facebook Live and stayed in contact through the #WiCyS2019 hashtag on Twitter and Instagram, reaching over 8.8 million in absolute reach.

“The WiCyS conference is a place where we celebrate and connect women in cybersecurity. This year's conference was no different. The energy and excitement of attendees was evident throughout the entire event. In the over 500 student attendees, I saw the future of cybersecurity, and it is amazing. Over 61 percent of our attendees were attending their first WiCyS conference, which is evidence of how our community continues to grow,” said Dr. Janell Straach, WiCyS chairman of the board. “The WiCyS community continues to amaze me with their love and commitment towards each other's success. Together, we thrive.”

Next year’s event will be at the Gaylord Rockies Resort in Denver, Colorado, March 12 to 14.

About Women in CyberSecurity (WiCyS)
Women in CyberSecurity (WiCyS) is the premier organization with national reach dedicated to bringing together women in cybersecurity from academia, research and industry for knowledge sharing, experience, networking and mentoring. Established in 2013 by Dr. Ambareen Siraj from Tennessee Tech University through a National Science Foundation grant, WiCyS is a nonprofit organization offering many membership, sponsorship and collaboration benefits. The organization's founding partners are Cisco, Facebook and Palo Alto Networks. WiCyS' strategic partners include Equifax Inc., Facebook, Fidelity Investments, IBM, Lockheed Martin, SANS Institute, the Security Industry Association, PayPal and Target. The WiCyS Conference is an excellent opportunity for companies to connect with women candidates to recruit them into cybersecurity jobs. For more information, visit wicys.org.

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