Nearly 30 years ago, I attended the first of what would be hundreds of information security conferences throughout my career. I was astonished to be one of only a handful of females in a sea of men – our career goals were the same, but I had a steep climb compared to my male counterparts. I entered an exclusive club.

Fast forward to today, the cybersecurity industry has exploded into a multi-billion dollar market, but exclusivity is still present. Nearly half of the global workforce is female, yet women hold only 11 percent of IT and cybersecurity positions. To effectively stand up against attackers we must build a workforce that takes exclusivity out of cybersecurity, embraces diversity and educates the next generation of cybersecurity leaders.

This week’s theme for National Cybersecurity Awareness Month is, “The Internet Wants You: Consider a Career in Cybersecurity.” The growing cybersecurity workforce shortage poses a dire threat to our economy and security. Given the low numbers of women in cybersecurity positions, the solution is to broaden the pool of available talent and build inspiring work places for all people.

To do our part in developing a diverse talent pipeline, I co-founded the Cisco Women in Cybersecurity Community, which focuses on developing the next generation of female cybersecurity leaders within Cisco. The goal of the initiative is to build a dynamic talent pool of women by focusing on four strategic pillars:

  • Education – Provide opportunities and resources to ensure community members are expanding their knowledge and skills in cybersecurity
  • Outreach – Develop a pipeline of women in cybersecurity at the K-12 and collegiate level and expand our community industry-wide
  • Leadership – Prepare members for career advancement and leadership roles by providing mentorship and professional development training to increase their sphere of influence in the industry
  • Community – Provide opportunities for members to gather regularly for the purpose of knowledge sharing and networking.

In the initiative’s first year, we’ve grown the community to more than 200 members who actively seek out certifications, advanced positions and mentorship opportunities. Today, the Women in Cybersecurity Community continues to grow offering women access to career development opportunities and a network of inspiring, like-minded men and women to exchange ideas and prosper in the field.

The Women in Cybersecurity Community is just one of 14 Business Initiated Networks at Cisco with the goal of actively empowering and building the next generation of cybersecurity and IT professionals. The networks are grassroots, regional employee communities with a specific interest and focus, which can be local to one business function, group, site and/or region. Networks are actively engaged through various events and initiatives that promote and support specific goals.

Cisco’s support of diversity and inclusion initiatives has played an instrumental role in building an empowering workforce. Our employees’ diverse backgrounds assist in our ability to fight against the most sophisticated attack methods and offer crucial analysis and solutions for a rapidly evolving threat landscape.

The talent is there. It’s up to leading businesses to eliminate the barriers and implement practices to recruit, train and retain a strong workforce.

Michele Guel joins other leading cybersecurity women in a webinar to discuss how they broke into and excelled in the industry. To learn how they have overcome challenges and achieved professional success, please sign up for our webinar, Finding a Career in Cybersecurity: Panel on Job Success.

October is Cyber Security Awareness Month, and Cisco is a Champion Sponsor of this annual campaign to help people recognize the importance of cybersecurity. For the latest resources and events, visit cisco.com/go/cybersecuritymonth.


Michele D. Guel

Distinguished Engineer & Data Security and Privacy Strategist

Office of the CTO, Security Business Group