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Women, Minorities Underrepresented in Cyber Security, DOD Expert Says

Gerald Scroop

September 2, 2020

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

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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.

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.

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. 

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