Upskilling Women in Cybersecurity: Empowering Change and Bridging the Gender Gap

2 min read
(August 2, 2023)

In the dynamic world of cybersecurity, gender diversity has long been an area of concern. Women have historically been underrepresented in this industry, and the need to bridge the gender gap has become increasingly apparent. Carmen Marsh, the President and Chief Executive Officer of the United Cyber Security Alliance, recognized this disparity and took proactive steps to address it through her ground-breaking upskilling program for women in cybersecurity. Cyber Security Tribe co-founder, Dorene Rettas, caught up with Carmen to discuss the program and the positive impact it’s had for women in cybersecurity.

Carmen's career in cybersecurity began in the mid-nineties, where she started at the bottom rung and worked her way up through various technical roles, including tech support, network engineering, and information security. Her diverse experience gave her a unique perspective on the industry and the gender imbalance that prevailed within it.

Upskilling Program for Women in Cybersecurity

The idea for the upskilling program took shape when Carmen and her business partner, Paula, faced challenges in hiring women for cybersecurity roles. They recognized the lack of representation and the barriers women encountered while trying to enter the field. Determined to make a difference, Carmen envisioned a program that would empower women by providing them with the necessary skills and knowledge to pursue careers in cybersecurity.

The program, called "100 Women, 100 Days Cybersecurity Accelerator," aimed to address the shortage of women in the industry and offer a practical solution. However, the challenge lay in securing funding to support the initiative. Carmen reached out to Craig Newmark, the founder of Craig's List and known philanthropist, seeking guidance on fundraising. Impressed by her dedication and vision, Craig became a key supporter, helping to establish partnerships with companies like Microsoft and Intel to address placement for these women once completing the program, which played a vital role in making the program a reality.

The success of the upskilling program was evident when it received overwhelming interest from women seeking to participate. The program proved instrumental in closing the gender gap in cybersecurity, as the women who completed it were subsequently prepared for and connected to job opportunities in the industry. The program's holistic approach not only imparted technical skills but also nurtured a supportive community of women in cybersecurity.
To complement the upskilling program, Carmen introduced the Cybersecurity Women of the Year Awards, recognizing and celebrating successful women in the field. The awards served a dual purpose - showcasing relatable role models for aspiring women in cybersecurity and raising awareness among outsiders about the diverse roles and opportunities in the industry.

Upskilling Success Story 

The impact of Carmen's efforts has been transformational. One standout success story is Naomi, who transitioned from being a hair stylist and salon owner to a cybersecurity professional after attending one of Carmen's events. She went through the upskilling program, secured an internship, and is now working with UC Davis, having been promoted multiple times. Naomi's journey exemplifies the power of empowering women through targeted upskilling programs.

Beyond the United States, Carmen's vision has taken her to Japan, where the culture presents unique challenges. Nevertheless, she is determined to make a difference and is launching the upskilling program there with the support of enthusiastic partners. Additionally, the inaugural "Cybersecurity Woman of the World" awards in Scotland have expanded the global reach of the initiative.
Carmen Marsh's upskilling program for women in cybersecurity has proven that tangible steps can be taken to address the gender disparity in this critical field.

By empowering women with the skills, knowledge, and support they need to succeed, Carmen is transforming the cybersecurity landscape and fostering a more diverse and inclusive industry. Through her efforts, more women are finding their place in cybersecurity, breaking barriers, and becoming inspiring leaders in the field. As Carmen continues her work, her impact on the industry and gender diversity will undoubtedly leave a lasting legacy.