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NJ ISACA’s SheLeadsTechTM Program
Kick-Off at SECON 2019

Shaiesta Tawa & Lily Shue, Co-Chairs, SheLeadsTechTM NJ ISACA

NJ ISACA kicked-off its SheLeadsTechTM program on May 21st, 2019 at SECON 2019, the Social Engineering Awareness Conference, which was hosted at Kean University, Union, NJ. Numerous attendees participating in the SheLeadsTechTM track were of diverse backgrounds.  Some of the items discussed during the session are highlighted below.

 Kean University
Mizba Tawa, President of the NJ ISACA Chapter, gave a brief description of ISACA’s global initiative, the SheLeadsTechTM Program. She called attention to the objective of the program, which is to increase the representation of women in technology leadership roles and the overall tech workforce. Details of the program were discussed and how it will engage in efforts to reach its goals. SheLeadsTechTM will aim to educate employees, allies, and professionals alike to overcome unconscious biases against women in the workforces. It is a program built to prepare current and upcoming female leaders for the digital future through training and skill development programs. Further, the program intends to build strategic partnerships beyond ISACA to support this unique challenge globally.

The keynote speaker was Emma Arakelyan, CEO & Co-Founder of Orion Worldwide, LLC. Emma advocated ISACA's SheLeadsTechTM program as an important initiative that provides guidance and encouragement to all women in the field. She stated it is essential to motivate women to take a proactive action in building a career in the cyber space. She believes this is the right time for women to build new careers as most Fortune 500 companies are taking serious steps in engaging women in leadership roles. As the discussion furthers, and initiatives are taken globally, women have increasingly unique opportunities to build on their strengths in the technology sector. However, the question of how to get there still lingers. Emma indicated the path is as simple as 3 key words: care, grow, and lead. Expanding on those, she campaigned for women to push beyond their comfort zones, build their brand, become a caring leader, and most importantly, learn and deeply engage in the new technologies that will shape the future, which was the perfect segue into our next speaker.

Following Emma’s motivational words, Dr. Lynn Costantini, Deputy Director of the Center for Partnership and Innovation at the National Association of Regulatory, engaged our event attendees by calling action upon the growing need of women within the technology sector. The title of her presentation, “Lost in Cyber Space, Women in the Tech Workforce” accurately depicted the sentiment women feel when it comes to being a part of the tech workforce. Dr. Lynn indicated that although cyber space is growing, there are fewer and fewer women entering the field. There just isn’t enough representation of women in technology leadership roles nor in the workforce. She urged that women should start exploring various opportunities offered by the advancing cyber related profession and work towards assuming leadership positions. Not having enough women in technology is a serious domestic issue
and should be prioritized as such. It has grown to be more than a conversation, and rather can be classified as an existential issue for our industry. There are steps that can be taken to further advance women in technology, which is what our panel touched upon in their discussion.

The closing of the SheLeadsTechTM track at SECON consisted of a panel of well established women within IT. Panelists included were NJ ISACA’s President, Mizba Tawa, who is also the Director of Global IT Risk Management at Prudential, Jennifer Bayuk, the CEO of Decision Framework Systems, Inc., Jody Raines, Manager of Cybersecurity at the NJ Board of Public Utilities, and Prabha Jha, Principal for Security Risk & Compliance at Verizon. Lily Shue, Managing Partner at LMS Associates, was the moderator for the event. The conversation encouraged an interactive discussion highlighting opportunities for women in IT. 

As with any career, cybersecurity is a learning journey. The panel addressed several steps to jumpstart a cybersecurity career and continue in an upward movement. Networking and mentoring were stressed, as there is a lot of knowledge and experiences out there available to leverage. While the work environment today understands and acknowledges the gender disparity, promotions are still based on job performance. That being said, further advice given by the panel was to embrace learning to stay on top of newly developing trends in technology. The New Jersey Chapter’s plans to support the SheLeadsTechTM Program will incorporate these discussion points through many event offerings aimed at encouraging and supporting women in IT.  NJ ISACA’s SheLeadsTechTM committee will continue to enhance its reachability to young professionals by working with high schools and universities within New Jersey.