Diversity in Cyber 2023: Promoting Change and Celebrating Inclusion
The annual Diversity in Cyber event took place on Wednesday, April 19th, 2023, virtually, providing a platform for underrepresented voices within the cybersecurity field to share their stories and experiences. The event aimed to promote change and celebrate diversity, equity, and inclusion, with a focus on drawing attention to the critical need for a more diverse cybersecurity workforce.
The lack of diversity in the cybersecurity workforce is a real risk to finding the most creative and innovative solutions to today's cybersecurity challenges. Therefore, the event had an exciting program, featuring sessions offered by corporate partners, such as Northrop Grumman, Amazon, Workday, and the National Security Agency (NSA), to help each participant play a small part in working toward a more inclusive workplace. Attendees were given the opportunity to hear from leaders in the field from typically underrepresented populations and listen to real stories and thoughts about the industry.
Our ACES students were also thrilled to see Northrop Grumman present "Diversity in Cybersecurity by the Numbers," which was moderated by an ACES alum!
The event provided an incredibly valuable experience for Morein, where she had the opportunity to immerse herself in a diverse community and hear inspiring stories from individuals with varied backgrounds.
Morein Ibrahim, a first-year CS major and ACES LLP student finds herself as a minority in multiple aspects of her identity - she is a woman, a person of color, and has a disability. Each of these factors presents its own unique set of challenges that require her to engage in constant problem-solving. However, despite these hurdles, Morein has had an incredibly positive experience at UMD. She has had the privilege of meeting and connecting with amazing individuals who have supported and inspired her. Morein truly feels that ACES has succeeded in creating a tight-knit and supportive environment for its members. The numerous events and activities organized by ACES provide a wonderful opportunity for students to come together as a large, diverse community.
Among the highlights, her favourite part was the Amazon breakdown session titled "The Path to Equity; Tales of Women in Cybersecurity, which featured three highly accomplished women in prominent roles at the company.
One of the speakers shared her experience as the only woman in her cohort, surrounded by an all-male team. This resonated with Morein, as it reminded her of her own high school CS classes where she often found herself in similar situations. It shed light on the lack of advocacy for women in the field of computer science and encouraged her not to be afraid of standing out.
The session also addressed the prevalent issue of imposter syndrome that many women face, not only in CS but in STEM fields as a whole. This phenomenon often discourages women from pursuing prestigious roles. However, the speakers emphasized the importance of overcoming such barriers, emphasizing that women deserve to hold these esteemed positions.
Additionally, The National Security Agency presented "The Link Between Biased Computing and Diversity in Cyber, " where Morein learned about the pervasive biases present in machine learning algorithms and hiring practices. She also noted that there is a tendency to perceive men as better problem-solvers, a skill that plays a significant role in areas like debugging. This observation shed light on the biases that women encounter within the field and highlighted the need for more inclusive practices.
The event concluded with participants returning to the main Zoom room to reflect on the lessons learned from the breakout sessions and how to incorporate them into their everyday lives. The hope is that the Diversity in Cyber event will inspire individuals to take action and improve diversity in the cybersecurity field. The ultimate vision is for the workforce to reflect the diverse population of our nation.
The Diversity in Cyber event provided a platform for Morein to gain valuable insights and reflections on the challenges and opportunities that women face in the tech industry. It reinforced her determination to push past barriers, advocate for women's representation, and contribute to creating a more inclusive and diverse environment within computer science and beyond.
Morein has big aspirations for her future as a software developer. Her dream is to work for tech giants like Apple or Google, where she can make a real impact in the lives of people with disabilities. She is passionate about using her skills in robotics and computer science to address physical disabilities. Working on projects involving robotics and creating prosthetics, she aims to develop innovative solutions that improve the quality of life for individuals facing physical challenges. Her experience at ACES has been so enriching that she always encourages other students to consider joining this vibrant and inclusive community.
In summary, the Diversity in Cyber event provided a space for underrepresented voices to be heard and highlighted the importance of diversity and inclusion in the cybersecurity field. With the involvement of corporate partners, attendees were exposed to unique insights and experiences, allowing for a better understanding of the current state of the industry and what can be done to improve it.
Published May 25, 2023