Digitization is driving each of us across all industries to make dramatic changes to how we approach customers, products, services, and the always-on, real-time information rich marketplace.  This digital economy is gender agnostic. And, it is highly dependent on a connected global ecosystem. The message is clear—no one person, enterprise, industry, government or region can stand alone any longer.

Building security across this ecosystem demands flexibility, inclusion and partnership.  Who better to drive security partnership across a global ecosystem than women?  Security is an inherently human challenge. Only a security community with diverse skills and abilities can deliver the necessary pervasive approach to meet the challenge.

My path to security was built on a foundation of protecting intellectual property; enhanced by a legal background and rich engineering and operational leadership roles afforded to me by Cisco.  Each of these opportunities, including leaving a successful legal practice to join Cisco, required faith.  Faith in my own ability to learn an entirely new discipline and trust that my colleagues would support me in that effort.

Examining the diverse skills necessary to holistically address security, it is clear that an integrated and aligned ecosystem of collaborators is essential. From my experience, with women at the table, the view is not simply about technology—but rather includes the integrated web of people, process, and technology working together. This is a far more inclusive way of tackling security. Of course, it is not just women who hold this view. Only by working together can security become the behavioral mandate essential for a digital world.

A broad set of skills are relevant to security success. Some are listed below.  Yet, while 50% of professional occupations in the US are held by women today, only 25% work in computing and 11% in cybersecurity.

Clearly, a rich community of skilled women exists. While continued focus on encouraging girls to learn about and join STEM fields is critical, embracing those with adjacent skills will also add to the community of women in security.

Together, we make a greater impact. Madeline Albright so poignantly reminded us that “There is a special place in hell for women who do not help other women.”  As the women of security, we must weave the magic carpet to transport all; regardless of generation, location or background. We must come together to:

What can we do to achieve this imperative? Each of us as individuals can make a difference.

There are ample public-private partnerships, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and community groups that can serve as a springboard for our individual efforts. These groups span missions as diverse as:

Driving cultural change regarding education and treatment of women


Establishing global baselines for sustainability, labor rights, human health and safety, and ethics in the electronics industry


Enhancing the skills of and promoting women in Security


At Cisco, I have the privilege of serving as an executive sponsor of our efforts focused on ages from five to 13. We as industry leaders, neighbors and experts can contribute to educational systems and support programs focused on opening the minds of and doors for young women. For example, Cisco’s Girls Power Tech program, part of the United Nations sponsored International Girls in ICT Day, takes place every April at more than 100 Cisco locations around the world. During this global mentoring event, we open our doors to young women, striving to inspire them to pursue a career in ICT through hands-on exposure to the latest technology and personal interaction with industry professionals.

In March 2016, I launched a challenge to our security engineering, services, information technology, and sales talent to deliver an introduction to cyber safety course to the youngest elementary students (when boys and girls have equal STEM interest). This unique opportunity allows us to send female role models to teach security awareness into the classroom and inspire young girls.

This clear multiplier effect is one that we, the women of security can deploy and sustain. Please join us!



Edna Conway

Chief Security Officer

Chief Security Officer, Global Value Chain