Discovering Cybersecurity with Goldman Sachs’ Women Professionals

women sitting around table

It is no secret that the tech industry suffers from an acute shortage of women workers, and this survey, commissioned recently by the National Cyber Security Alliance, suggests why:

“62 percent of men and three quarters of women globally said no high school or secondary school computer classes offered the skills necessary or prepared them to pursue a career in cybersecurity or a related degree like computer science. When it comes to awareness of what a cybersecurity career entails, the gap is even larger with 51 percent of U.S. men and only one third of U.S. women having such knowledge.”

In an effort to counter the problem of gender inequality among students in the sciences and engineering, Goldman Sachs and its Technology Risk division decided to join forces with the NYU Tandon School of Engineering. As part of this year’s Cyber Security Awareness Week, they sponsored a comprehensive workshop entitled “Discovering Cybersecurity: The Skills You Need to Succeed,” in hopes of drawing attention to the importance of women in the cyber workforce.

The event was hosted on Friday, November 13, at NYU Tandon’s Bern Dibner Library of Science and Technology, and while it was open to women in all stages of education, its audience comprised mostly a diverse group of female middle and high school students, wasting no time cultivating their interests in computer science.

The workshop opened with a keynote address by Kevin Zerrusen, a former Foreign Service Officer and executive at the US Department of State who now works as global head of the Security Incident Response Team at Goldman Sachs. In his speech, Zerrusen took the attendees on a tour of the types of positions and industry areas open to those passionate about computer science and security.

Pointing to the gender gap in the sector, Zerrusen called on his audience to take action against cyber espionage, even if that means being the only girl in the programming class.

“Embrace that,” he advised, to the applause of the audience. “We need diversity of gender and ethnicity. It brings diverse thought, leading to better outcomes. And believe me, better outcomes are what everybody in this business wants.”

With those words of encouragement, Zerrusen passed the microphone to Merrill Miller, Goldman Sachs’ VP of Technology Risk and the moderator of the discussion panel featuring Managing Director Liz Byrnes, Vice President Darlene Hart Rodgers, and senior engineers Miruna Stratan, Sandy Milano and Sandie Ritucci.

In addition to stressing the importance of math and science education, all the panelists placed great emphasis on mentorship and networking as a means for personal and professional development. “Everyone that you work with could potentially become your mentor,” said Hart Rodgers, backed by other panelists’ advice to not be afraid to seek guidance from teachers and classmates.

Following their own recommendation, the women then proceeded to talk personally to individual students, some of them having already dipped their own toes into computer science. Two of them, Natalia and Olive from IS 318 in Williamsburg, were particularly interested in turning their passion for coding into a future career.

“In class we learn different programming languages and how to apply them in real life,” said Natalia, who at 11 years old is no stranger to the practices of forensics and cryptography. “I don’t know what I want to do yet,” chimed in Olive, “but I do know it will be on a computer.”

Anna Bialas
Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development
B.S. in Media, Culture, and Communication | Class of 2017