It’s time for the annual Women in Cyber Security Conference (WiCyS). We’re proud that Cisco is once again a VIP sponsor as well as a Founding Partner of this motivating and important event.

We have some great activities in store, including welcoming eight high school girls and their two chaperones as attendees, enabled by Cisco’s $25,000 gift supporting scholarships for their participation. To attract the top candidates, Cisco, in conjunction with the SANS Institute and WiCyS, ran the GirlsGoCyberStart “What if?” essay contest.  The goal was to spark their imaginations on predicting and preparing for the next level of game-changing cyber threats. The more than 40 entries we received were judged by representatives from our three organizations, and included some very creative ideas. We’re excited to have this next generation of cyber warriors joining this year’s conference.

Beyond these scholarships, Cisco will also host a voting contest to donate $5000 to one of following not-for-profit organizations:

All conference attendees are eligible to participate in the voting, which will open on Thursday during the conference networking event and end Friday afternoon.

Cisco also has several speakers on the agenda.

  • Wendy Nather, Head of Advisory CISOs for Duo Security at Cisco, will deliver a keynote address on Solving for the Security Poverty Line. She’ll discuss how organizations that don’t have full IT capabilities suffer cascading effects on their security. Given the complexity of cyber dynamics, serious efforts from the whole community are needed to address this situation. Wendy’s talk will lay out the problems and the challenges facing our society.
  • Also on Friday, Cisco’s Tia Pope, Information Security Crypto Architect, along with Alan Paller, Founder and Research Director of the SANS Institute, will present a session on Discovering and Inspiring Young Women Who Will Excel in Cybersecurity. The session will be an overview of some large and compelling pilot programs happening in the US and the UK that are testing ways to overcome the cyber workforce talent shortage. The pilots center on three questions that have stumped policy-makers and educators: 1) How to entice and delight young women and double or triple the number of young women who enter this field, at a national scale; (2) How to determine, in advance, which young women are most likely to excel in advanced cybersecurity roles; and (3) How to accelerate young women’s (and young men’s) mastery of deep technical skills, in rural, inner city and other schools that lack teachers with that depth of technical mastery. The session will also discuss a new U.S. national test happening in 26 U.S. states with 2,000 high schools and colleges, that is beginning during the Conference.
  • Finally, Edna Conway, Cisco Chief Security Officer, Global Value Chain, will participate with other female executives in what promises to be a powerful panel discussion about harassment in the workplace― #METOO Cybersecurity: Managing Monsters without Losing Your Mind. With only 11% of the cyber workforce being women, it can be difficult for them speak out about unwanted overtures and delayed career advancement. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Edna and the other panelists will share stories about their first-hand experience dealing with harassment, bullying and bias in their own careers. They’ll also address specific approaches on how to manage harassment and bias, including how to report to higher ups, how to help educate team members on being inclusive and respectful, where to find help and support, and clear examples of what they did to overcome bias or harassment and still succeed. Attendees will also have an opportunity to share their own concerns in a safe space offering mutual support.

One more thing – can you tell by now we’re excited about this? Cisco’s WiCys Board representative Jay Koehler will lead a Cisco-hosted mentoring and networking evening and career fair along with many other Cisco representatives on Thursday evening. We can feel the energy already! Please stop by and see us.

We’re so thrilled to be all-in for this important event, and in supporting women as their ranks within the cyber workforce continue to grow.


WiCyS 2019 is hosted by WiCyS with Carnegie Mellon University, and is happening March 28th through 30th in Pittsburgh, PA.



Michele D. Guel

Distinguished Engineer & Data Security and Privacy Strategist

Office of the CTO, Security Business Group