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ISACA’s Inaugural SheLeadsTech™ Day of Advocacy in DC: Congressional Visits Highlight Cyber Education and Workforce Issues

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Dozens of women in the SheLeadsTech program attended ISACA’s first fly-in advocacy event in Washington, DC, just a week ago with a plan to bring their voices and views to US Congressional leaders on a host of relevant legislation. After hearing speakers discuss professional development and other issues facing women in technology, delegations visited 12 offices representing California, the District of Columbia, Illinois, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

ISACA’s SheLeadsTech program seeks to increase the representation of women in technology leadership roles and the tech workforce through raising awareness, preparing to lead, and building global alliances. For this inaugural advocacy day, SheLeadsTech focused efforts on the NIST Reauthorization Bill, the future of IT audit and the role emerging technologies will play in it, and the need for a qualified federal cybersecurity workforce.

The NIST Reauthorization Bill (H.R. 6229) not only reauthorizes the National Institute of Standards and Technology but also further supports and strengthens the research and development programs of NIST, such as cybersecurity, artificial intelligence (AI), Internet of Things, quantum computing. Focusing on emerging technologies could improve the United States’ cybersecurity workforce, as well as foster further development of AI and IoT. The bill also could expand opportunities for women in the cybersecurity workforce, leaders noted.

SheLeadsTech Advocacy Event

Other bills of interest to the ISACA community are H.R. 935 – Cyber Security Education and Federal Workforce Enhancement Act, which establishes an Office of Cybersecurity Education and Awareness Branch within the Department of Homeland Security to provide recommendations to enhance the cybersecurity and computer security workforce. The bill specifically requires reporting on the causes of high dropout rates of women and minority students enrolled in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs. Additionally, H.R. 2709, S. 1246 – Women and Minorities in STEM Booster Act takes important steps toward SheLeadsTech’s goal to increase the representation of women in technology leadership roles and the tech workforce, and H.R. 3137– Promoting Women in STEM Act provides avenues for SheLeadsTech goals to increase the number of women in STEM career and technical education programs.

Anne Marie Zettlemoyer, cybersecurity strategist and visiting fellow at the National Security Institute, who previously served as a special adviser to the U.S. Secret Service, and Olivia Crowley, who serves in the Army National Reserves and works for a government contractor, both spoke about the importance of security clearances. They noted these processes can take long to obtain and keep clearance, which reduces the ability for cyber experts to accept short-term assignments in federal posts. The government needs to partner with private business to offer tours of digital service as a cyber reservist, they suggested.

Zettlemoyer urged the ISACA community and lawmakers to consider the wide reach that a cyber workforce can have. “College isn’t for everyone, but a good living is,” she said. “There are several areas in cybersecurity that don’t require a university degree and can be treated as a trade; providing that opportunity would not only lift our national intelligence and security but also our economy.” She believes that retraining and investing in people whose jobs have diminished are perfect for careers in cybersecurity. “Talent and aptitude are not discriminate, but opportunity often is. We need people to answer the call, and that means looking at non-traditional backgrounds for talent. For example, coal miners are known for their exceptional analytical skills and the ability to problem-solve and react quickly when conditions change in the mine; these analytical skills can translate into triaging alerts with the proper training. Cyber as a trade can offer a high-tech path back into the workforce for them.”

SheLeadsTech advocacy attendee Sanja Kekic, president of the ISACA Belgrade chapter and member of the global SheLeadsTech Chapter Engagement Working Group, was among those inspired by the SheLeadsTech event. She plans to create an advocacy day for her chapter. “Being able to educate members of the Serbian parliament about cybersecurity and the technology workforce, especially under the SheLeadsTech banner, would be an amazing experience for our chapter,” she said.

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