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Women, Minorities Underrepresented in Cybersecurity, DOD Expert Says

Sept. 2, 2020 | BY Terri Moon Cronk , DOD News

Women and minorities are underrepresented in the cybersecurity workforce, according to a panel of women cyber leaders participating in a virtual panel discussion on women in cyber leadership. 

A female service member looks at some equipment that sits on the hood of a military vehicle.
Supply Specialist
This 92 Yankee unit supply specialist with the 1485th Transportation Company of the Ohio Army National Guard prepares sensors of a vehicle-mounted, integrated laser engagement system at the Joint Readiness Training Center, Fort Polk, La., May 2, 2019. The 86th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Mountain), Task Force Alpine deploys laser tag to augment the experience of a simulated fire exchange with actual consequences for soldiers and vehicles.
Photo By: Army Staff Sgt. Barbara Pendl, Army National Guard
VIRIN: 190502-Z-BA489-020

Katie Arrington, the Defense Department's chief information security officer for the undersecretary of defense for acquisition, said DOD has done a great deal to change that, but it still has a long way to go.

"We're actually going out and trying to cultivate really young women into our workforce," she said, adding that DOD is also trying to attract retired women veterans into the cyber world. "[We've] had so much success in that area over the past two years." 

Arrington said there is also a DOD workforce exchange program with private industry. 

"We look for our counterparts in different fields, specifically cyber, and we switch jobs," she explained. "And in doing that, we have the opportunity to really get involved in the commercial sector with women and educate them as to why they would want to [work for the Defense Department]."

Two Marines talk to another Marine.
Cyber Command
Marine Maj. Gen. Matthew G. Glavy, back to camera, commanding general of Marine Corps Forces Cyberspace Command, and Marine Chief Warrant Officer 2 Leila R. Doumanis, an offensive cyber weapons officer, brief Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Gary L. Thomas on existing and future cyberspace operations. The Marines conduct offensive and defensive cyber operations in support of United States Cyber Command and operate, secure and defend the Marine Corps Enterprise Network.
Photo By: Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Jacob Osborne
VIRIN: 191002-M-VG716-0057

Equality in pay is an area in which Arrington believes DOD does well. 

Arrington said DOD is working diligently to make a level playing field in terms of pay for men and women. 

Investing in one's self is also critical to job achievement in the cyber realm, she said, adding, "Look at what your end goal is."

Arrington emphasized that it wasn't "career bandwidth" that led her to a leadership status in cyber, rather it was a "pure drive" to make it happen for her. "And it's definitely been interesting and tremendous fun," she said.

"Push yourself to new challenges … invest in yourself, and when you believe in you and you want something so desperately bad, the world will come with you," she advised. 

Four Marines look at a computer monitor.
Cyber Center
Marines with Marine Corps Forces Cyberspace Command in the cyber operations center at Lasswell Hall at Fort Meade, Md., conduct offensive and defensive cyber operations, Feb. 5, 2020. The group supports U.S. Cyber Command and operates, secures and defends the Marine Corps Enterprise Network.
Photo By: Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Jacob Osborne
VIRIN: 200205-M-VG714-0071C

Arrington said she believes cybersecurity is the thin line that keeps the United States safe from the rest of the world. 

"Anything we do now in cyber is so incredibly important. Don't ever doubt yourself. Lean in. It's OK to make a mistake. It's OK to fall down. It's OK to skin your knees," she advised. "Just make sure you know how to stand back up, brush off your knees, and get back in the game."

The panel discussion was hosted by GovernmentCIO Media & Research.