Carnegie Mellon University
April 02, 2019

Leaders in Cybersecurity Aim To Expand Workforce

By Daniel Tkacik

Daniel Tkacik
  • College of Engineering
  • 412-268-1187

Supporting the community of women in cybersecurity and highlighting the work of accomplished women from across academia and industry are among the top goals for the Information Networking Institute's (INI) Dena Haritos Tsamitis, the Software Engineering Institute's Bobbie Stempfley and CyLab's Lorrie Cranor.

"There is already a massive shortage of people trained to work in the cybersecurity area," said Cranor, who directs Carnegie Mellon University's CyLab Security and Privacy Institute and is a professor in the Department of Engineering and Public Policy and the Institute for Software Research. "This is exacerbated by the fact that few women work in this area. We need to expand the workforce."


Carnegie Mellon University was the local host of the Women in Cybersecurity Conference, that took place March 28-30.

Haritos Tsamitis co-led the organization of WiCyS 2019 with Stempfley, the director of Carnegie Mellon's Software Engineering Institute's CERT Division. Stempfley said that with privacy and security concerns among the most difficult challenges today, it is important to broaden the range of the cyber workforce.

"What I like about this conference is it is very focused on continuing to develop that talent and to diversify the participants," Stempfley said.

Haritos Tsamitis, the Barbara Lazarus Professor in Information Networking and director of the INI, agrees.

"Research has shown that companies with a diverse workforce perform better financially, as well as in employee productivity and performance," Haritos Tsamitis said. "We need to shift the conversation, correct the misconceptions about working in cybersecurity and start talking about the myriad of pathways within the field."

Efforts at CMU

Haritos Tsamitis began addressing the unique challenges met by women in the male-dominated field back in 2005, when she co-founded Women@INI, also known as WINI.

"WINI fosters a respectful, inclusive environment that allows students to openly discuss the common struggles they face as women in the field, demonstrate their qualifications with confidence, and serve as role models for the next generation of women in STEM," Haritos Tsamitis said. "WINI has created a culture of paying it forward; many of our alumnae go on to create similar groups to support women in tech at their workplaces."

In addition, the INI offers a full scholarship to one woman each year to study information security, thanks to a longstanding partnership with the Executive Women's Forum on Information Security, Risk Management, and Privacy. Since 2007, 11 scholarships have been awarded.

"Through this scholarship, we are closing the gender gap one student at a time," Haritos Tsamitis said.

Cranor said that for years, Carnegie Mellon has been trying to increase the number of girls and women in the STEM fields more generally, starting with outreach activities to middle school and high school girls.

"Once we get women into our academic programs, we have organizations in place to help support them," Cranor said.

CMU has made a long-term commitment to purposefully seek out outstanding women and support them during their studies, through the concerted and coordinated efforts of university leaders, faculty advocates and role models, staff and fellow students. At CMU, women make up about 50 percent of the first-year class in Carnegie Mellon's School of Computer Science, and 43 percent in the College of Engineering, which represent two to three times the national average for those fields. Security and privacy research crosses many disciplines at the university, including those housed in the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences.

Convening at WiCyS 2019

Haritos Tsamitis, Cranor and Stempfley all spoke at this week's WiCyS conference, but when they are away from the podium, they met young women interested in pursuing security and privacy careers.

"I believe the attendees of WiCyS are the future of cybersecurity," Haritos Tsamitis said. "I hope to inspire them to put their whole heart into this incredible conference experience. CMU is the birthplace of cybersecurity, so it's only fitting we host the next generation of security researchers, hackers, and leaders in Pittsburgh."

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