Carnegie Mellon University
February 21, 2020

WiCyS 2020 Goes Virtual

By Deana Lorenzo

Jessica Shirley
  • Director of Strategic Communications

While the global spread of COVID-19 has caused many major tech events and conferences to be canceled or postponed, some organizations have turned to virtual programming to deliver their content to thousands of would-be attendees.

Women in Cybersecurity (WiCyS) is one such organization. The WiCyS 2020 conference—originally set to take place in Denver from March 12-14—was canceled last month due to the restrictions posed by the pandemic. So in April, WiCyS launched an online version of their program that is open to students, faculty, researchers and professionals in the security field—wherever they are in the world.

The INI is a longtime partner of WiCyS and four scholars from the INI were set to attend the 2020 conference in Denver. Now, from April 15-17, they can still benefit from the conference’s dynamic virtual programming, which reflect many of the original event’s highly anticipated technical workshops and keynote sessions. 

“Apart from the learning, WiCyS will give me an opportunity to meet passionate leaders and amazingly talented engineers from academia and industry,” said Aditi Paul, an M.S. in Information Networking (MSIN) student, who was planning to attend the Denver conference. “I hope to interact with and build a strong network of brilliant minds—people from diverse backgrounds who are passionate about technology and are creating a positive impact on this world through their work.”

There is still a lot that needs to be done to close the gender gap in cybersecurity, but the efforts of organizations like WiCyS are helping increase the representation of women in the field. 

According to a 2019 study, women now comprise 24 percent of the world’s cybersecurity workforce, which is over double the 11 percent reported in 2017. What’s more—the proportion of these women who hold leadership positions, such as Chief Technology Officer (CTO), Vice President of IT or IT Director, have surpassed that of men. 

WiCyS recognizes that gender diversity and inclusivity are key features of a skilled and adaptive cyber workforce, as does the INI, which has been a conference sponsor since 2014.

Last year, Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) had the honor of hosting WiCyS 2019 on its Pittsburgh campus—known as the “birthplace of cybersecurity.”

Dr. Dena Haritos Tsamitis, Barbara Lazarus Professor in Information Networking and director of the INI, served as the 2019 program co-lead alongside Bobbie Stempfley, the director of the Software Engineering Institute’s CERT Division. 

“Every year, our students walk away from this conference feeling inspired by a highly-engaged community of academics and professionals who are driving the future of cybersecurity,” said Haritos Tsamitis. “Even though my students won’t be able to get the full in-person conference experience this year, I am grateful for WiCyS for providing this virtual opportunity for them to engage with and learn from this talented community of women.”


Virtual conferences like WiCyS show that even with social distancing, communities within the tech industry are still finding ways to support one another and make new connections.

“You can meet a lot of amazing people at WiCyS,” said INI alumna and previous WiCyS attendee Caitlin Hanley. “The support from the women there helped me see that I had a place in the cybersecurity field.”