Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Director Jen Easterly strutted onto the stage at the 2022 Women in CyberSecurity (WiCyS) conference Friday — wearing a t-shirt displaying the Ukrainian flag as AC/DC’s hard rock anthem Thunderstruck blared in the background — joining the conversation on women in the cybersecurity industry.
In celebration of Women’s History Month, WiCyS hosted its annual conference to shine a light on the successes of women already in the field and the work that still needs to be done. Easterly, who took the top role at CISA last July, called on cybersecurity leaders to close the gender gap — current statistics show the industry is only 24% women. Easterly said it was her goal for women to make up 50% of the cybersecurity workforce by 2030.
Easterly said the federal government needs to help lead the way — she emphasized CISA’s focus on diversity and inclusion, which she said is key to staying at the forefront of cyber security and resilience. These values, she said, are more important today than ever before.
“The cyber threat landscape is getting more complex, more dynamic, more dangerous every day,” she said, before listing off recent attacks that have disrupted the U.S. including the SolarWinds cyberespionage campaign, Microsoft Exchange server vulnerabilities, the Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack, and others.
“Our current geopolitical crisis is only exacerbating this threat. Specifically — the unjust, illegal, immoral, unprovoked invasion of the democracy of Ukraine, by Russia,” she added. Easterly assured continued security against Russian malicious cyber activity.
Drawing back to the notion that “diversity of thought” allows the industry to stay ahead of such attacks, she alluded to cybersecurity not being about technology, but about people.
One trait that she said she looks for in cybersecurity workers — especially leaders — is emotional intelligence. “Research shows that women actually outperform in the important assets of emotional intelligence to include inspirational leadership, coaching and mentoring, and adaptability. Emotional intelligence is the future of cybersecurity, and sisters it is us,” she said.