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Interview with Dr. Jane LeClair

Dr. Jane LeClairWould you share a bit about your career background?
I have had an extensive career in technology. I spent many years as a manager in the commercial nuclear power industry, a number of years as an administrator in higher education, and I was the CEO of the National Cybersecurity Institute in Washington and I am currently the President of the Washington Center for Cybersecurity Research & Development (WCCRD).
What prompted you to enter into the cybersecurity security area?
While I was Dean of the School of Business and Technology I became aware that the cybersecurity field was rapidly developing and not enough was being done to educate individuals to meet the growing need for cyber professionals nor were businesses and government agencies fully aware of the dangers posed to their digital systems by those with malicious intent, so I worked to open several cybersecurity programs, and established the National Cybersecurity Institute in DC and later the WCCRD.
Every day we see statistics that say women and minorities are underrepresented in the field. What are your thoughts on the reason for this under representation?
There are a number of reasons for this underrepresentation, but the reasons generally fall into four categories…early childhood where young people are channeled into ‘traditional’ roles…in schools where there is a failure on the part of teachers and guidance counselors to explore opportunities for young women and minorities, and lack of role models, a lack of acceptance of differences in the computer area, and sadly a feeling that an IT career is for geeks. In the workplace an unfriendly environment can exist, there is pay inequity, long hours and inadequate paths to promotion many times. At home, the stresses of a family life can be very trying and there may be a lack of support for this often misunderstood and often seen as highly technical field.
Would you share your suggestions on steps that women and minorities can take to begin a career in cybersecurity?
I think it starts at home where parents need to let their children explore paths outside those that are traditional. In schools teachers need to be encouraging, have a balance in the classroom and provide role models. bring in speakers, provide some activities that allow exploration of the field. In the workplace, employers need to retain their personnel so they should provide an equitable working environment. As for women and minorities themselves, they need to get involved in STEM as early as possible, and immerse themselves in technology. Join in some student groups while in school or professional if already in the workplace there are groups for both women and minorities out there that are ready and willing to assist. They need to get into a quality cybersecurity program in higher education and seek internships, get their degree and get some of the basic certifications that employers look for in the field.
What recommendations do you have for women and minorities currently working in the field to share their experiences with those who are interested in cybersecurity?
That is a really good question. There are a few options that come to mind. The first would be for women who are currently in the cyber field to share their thoughts and experiences through the print and social media with blogs, webinars or articles. Another way would be for those who are in the cyber field to act as role models and accept invitations to visit schools and share their experiences.

Here are a couple of groups that you might look at exploring. Both of these groups provide a wide variety of resources, from mentoring to scholarship opportunities to training: Women in CyberSecurity (WiCyS) and the International Consortium of Minority Cybersecurity Professionals (ICMCP). They have conferences and others ways to help individuals reach out and promote the field.

Toni M. Terry, BA

"I am 67 years old, soon to be 68, and to be able to say I did this at this day in my life is just gratification for my own self."

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