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Women’s History Month: Women in Cyber

Did you know March is Women’s History Month? Here at CISA we are proud to celebrate the women pioneers of computer science and cybersecurity while simultaneously finding additional ways to grow the number of women entering the cyber workforce today.

In 1970, women represented 38% of the American workforce and just 8% of STEM workers. By 2021, women made up more than half (57%) of the entire workforce, yet were still underrepresented in STEM and cybersecurity, making up just 26% of professional computing occupations. With over 750,000 open cybersecurity positions across the U.S. alone and more than 3.4 million projected openings worldwide, now is the time to help more women enter the cybersecurity workforce.

In order to move forward, let’s take a look back on the history of women in cyber as well as the data around underrepresentation in the field.

Historical Women in Cyber

  • Joan Clarke: during World War II Joan Clarke pioneered groundbreaking techniques to disrupt codes generated by Enigma machines, ultimately leading to helping decipher intricate Nazi messages during a time of turmoil.
  • Ada Lovelace: at just 19 years old, and with no formal training, Ada Lovelace created what is widely recognized as the first computer program, called the Analytical Engine, which was designed to run other programs automatically. The language and codes she created are still widely used today, more than C++, Java, JavaScript, or Python combined.  
  • Grace Hopper: a highly educated woman, Grace Hopper earned her bachelor’s degree at Vassar College and went on to earn her master’s degree and Ph.D. in Mathematics at Yale. She went on to contribute to the production of the Mark I, an early prototype of the electronic computer. During this time, she coined the term “bug” to describe a computer malfunction. She invented the first computer compiler, a program that translates written instructions into codes that computers read directly. This work led her to co-develop the COBOL, one of the earliest standardized computer languages. In 2016, Hopper was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
  • Valerie Thomas: from 1989 to 1993 Valerie Thomas led NASA’s cybersecurity program, helping develop protocols NASA computers. As one of only a few women in leadership positions at the time, she helped other women interested in pursuing cybersecurity as a career enter the field.
  • Learn more about the untold history of women in cyber here.

Get Involved!

Are you interested in a career in cybersecurity? NICCS has the resources and information current and prospective cybersecurity professionals need to be successful.

Check out the NICCS Education and Training Catalog with over 6,000 cyber-related courses from hundreds of providers across the country. With virtual and in-person classes for beginner, intermediate, and advanced users, the Training Catalog has something for everyone.

Ready to find a job? CISA is always searching for diverse, talented, and highly motivated professionals to continue its mission of securing the nation's critical infrastructure. Explore the Cybersecurity Careers Map to find thousands of federal career opportunities across the country and around the world.

Pay it forward! Encourage the next generation to get involved in cybersecurity and STEM-related clubs and organizations in their schools and communities. Look at the NICCS Students’ page for more information on high school course suggestions, college and scholarship opportunities, and downloadable cyber career profiles with salary information and required soft skills.

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