From March 17-19, Cleveland will host more than 1,500 attendees of the ninth annual Women in Cybersecurity (WiCyS) 2022 Conference at the Huntington Convention Center of Cleveland. The conference aims to help organizations recruit, retain and advance women in cybersecurity—all while creating a community of engagement, encouragement and support for students and women in the field.
A consortium led by Cleveland State University/IoT Collaborative is serving as local host for this year’s conference and includes Greater Cleveland Partnership/RITE and Northeast Ohio CyberConsortium (NEOCC). More than 25 public, private and nonprofit organizations are collaborating to educate WiCyS’ professional and student attendees about Cleveland, its tech community and job opportunities.
By 2020, it was estimated that a need for 1.5 million new employees would be needed in the global information security workforce; experts in the field rightly expressed concern about falling short of this quota. In 2022, a shortage of internet technology (IT) staff dedicated to cybersecurity remains. Estimates suggest that many companies are at “moderate or extreme risk” for cyberattacks as a result of it.
Despite women making up the majority in colleges and universities in the U.S., they still only comprise about 20-25% of STEM students, despite the growing need for qualified professionals. Cleveland State University is helping close the gender gap in cybersecurity, according to Janine Spears, Ph.D., associate professor in the university’s Information Systems department in The Monte Ahuja College of Business.
“One of the biggest strengths that we have at Cleveland State is that while we don’t have a dedicated degree—yet, we’ll say—we as an institution are approaching cybersecurity in an interdisciplinary way,” said Dr. Spears, who is also Faculty Chair for WiCyS 2022.
“The Monte Ahuja College of Business, Washkewicz College of Engineering and C|M Law all have courses and our graduates who follow these tracts are coming out and placing into really good cybersecurity jobs with world-class organizations. That’s something that I’m very proud of,” she added.
To that end, CSU is proud to introduce four alumnae who make up part of Cleveland’s emerging cybersecurity leadership—incredibly talented women from The Monte Ahuja College of Business who WiCyS attendees are likely to bump into, alongside other like-minded cyber Vikings at the conference.
Nahla Youssef (left) is an IT Technical Analyst for a cybersecurity team at a well-known Fortune 500 manufacturing company headquartered in Cleveland: “You have to be 110% proactive and try to be ahead of [cybersecurity threats] because there are ‘bad actors’ spending 24 hours a day, 7 days a week trying to hack companies to steal information or plant ransomware.” Meet Nahla Youssef.
Prerna Narayanan (right) is currently a cybersecurity consultant with EY (Ernst & Young), one of the “big four accounting firms” worldwide, and she has designs on becoming a partner in the firm someday: “I want to be in the position to encourage more women to join the field of cybersecurity,” she said. “Providing that pathway for other women in a male dominated field is important.” Meet Prerna Narayanan.
Angela Salviejo (right center) is the Director of Sherwin-Williams’ Digital Innovation Accelerator and a 20-year veteran of the organization. She encouraged Alexis Lee (left center) to apply at Sherwin as an IT Professional Apprentice in their Threat Management division. Lee remarked on the vastness of the Sherwin-Williams workforce. “[People] just see Sherwin-Williams as the paint store down at the corner and not how it’s all really executed,” she said. Lee impressed Salviejo right away. “I told our leadership ‘Keep your eye on this girl! Do not let her get away. I promise you, she is a future leader at Sherwin,’” said Salviejo. They’ve become quite a team since then. Meet Angela Salviejo and Alexis Lee.
Thinking about Cybersecurity? Here’s a fun fact about this hot career: employers have shown that they are willing to shell out the big bucks to address cybersecurity. The average cyber professional with a bachelor’s degree makes $116,000 per year, and master’s degree-holders can expect double that. Engineering and computer science salaries are the fastest growing salaries of any discipline, according to recent data cited by the National Association of Colleges and Employers.