Women in Tech Symposium celebrates women in STEM, discusses cybersecurity

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Attendees of the fourth annual Women in Tech Symposium gathered at the Bechtel Engineering Center on Friday to celebrate women in technology and discuss the future of cybersecurity.

Held days before International Women’s Day, the symposium was organized by the Women in Technology Initiative, or WITI, at the campus Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society, or CITRIS, and the Banatao Institute and UC Berkeley’s College of Engineering. The symposium consisted of two panels, several speakers and a networking fair.

“Jobs in information security are projected to grow 37 percent between 2012 and 2022. Despite these opportunities, women are vastly underrepresented in the field, holding only 20 percent of cybersecurity positions,” the WITI event pamphlet read. “At the same time, women face greater risks and threats of bullying and harassment on social media platforms.”

Proceedings began at 9 a.m. in the Sibley Auditorium with a welcome speech from Camille Crittenden, the executive director of CITRIS and the Banatao Institute. Toward the end of the first hour, Rama Akkiraju, an IBM fellow, received the Athena Award for Executive Leadership.

After the award was presented, Tsu-Jae King Liu, dean of the UC Berkeley College of Engineering, and Window Snyder, the chief security officer of Square Inc. engaged in a “Fireside Chat.”

The discussion was followed by the event’s first panel, titled “What’s at Stake? Global and Systematic Cyber Threats.”

“Cybersecurity is no longer just a concern for the IT department — vulnerabilities in our digital services and infrastructure could create havoc for all of us,” the WITI event pamphlet read.

Between panels, the Athena Award for Academic Leadership was presented to Alice Agogino, the Roscoe and Elizabeth Hughes chair in mechanical engineering at UC Berkeley.

Keynote speaker Wendy Nather, head of advisory chief information security officers at Cisco, delivered a talk on democratizing security. She emphasized the importance of collaboration, simplifying security design and creating an open culture around cybersecurity.

“We need security that’s as easy to use and as hard to get wrong as a spoon,” Nather said at the event. “We need to be able to secure the future. Everyone needs to be able to understand and apply basic security controls.”

The second panel, titled “Protecting our Identities and Assets from Stalkers, Trolls, and Hackers,” discussed privacy and the effects of being driven out of the industry.

At the event, the Athena Award for Early Career was presented to Joy Buolamwini, the founder of the Algorithmic Justice League, and the organization Girls Who Code received the Athena Award for Next Generation Engagement.

Amy Tong, director and state chief information officer of the California Department of Technology, delivered closing remarks and discussed the state government’s new initiatives, including Girls Go CyberStart, and the importance of considering consumers’ needs.

“Securing our future is everyone’s responsibility,” Tong said at the event. “We look forward to hearing from you.”

Contact Tarunika Kapoor at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @tkapoor_dc.