Women make up just 24% of the cyber workforce. CISA wants to fix that.

As the race to recruit female talent in STEM continues moving ahead with steady progress, stunning statistics still wrack the cybersecurity sector: Women working in cybersecurity currently account for less than one quarter of the overall workforce.

Megan Rapinoe. Sister Rosetta Tharpe. Shirley Chisholm. Donning jeans and a Ukrainian flag t-shirt, the director of the nation’s lead cybersecurity agency ticked through PowerPoint slides of women “who took a sledgehammer to the glass ceiling.”

“I need your help,” said Jen Easterly, director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, on Friday to an audience of 1,700 female cybersecurity professionals assembled for a three-day technical conference in Cleveland. “We need to get to 50% of cybersecurity by the year 2030. Think we can do it?” Someone whistled. ACDC pulsed through the speakers. “Come on!” Easterly rallied. 

After exiting the stage, Easterly told CBS News she has become accustomed to setting “unreasonable” goals. “That’s been sort of my [modus operandi] my entire life,” she quipped. “And I honestly believe if you set a super ambitious goal, and you as a leader inspire and empower people, and look at that goal as something that may be challenging, highly ambitious, but is in fact achievable, you can get there.”

Jen Easterly

CBS News

Pressed on how close America’s cyber defense agency is to “getting there,” Easterly responded down to the decimal. “Right now, we’re at 36.4% women at CISA’s workforce, but I think we can get to 50% before 2030.” She paused before adding,  “Actually, I’m hoping we can get there before 2025.”

Easterly says she hopes colleagues across the federal workforce – including FBI, NSA, U.S. Secret Service – make similar pledges. The Army veteran-turned-corporate leader came close to “getting there” in her previous stint as head of Firm Resilience at Morgan Stanley, where she oversaw a team that was roughly 48% women.

Currently, there’s just one woman serving as chief information security officer, or “CISO,” among the top 10 largest companies nationwide: Chandra McMahon,…