Women in Tech Symposium highlights leading women in cybersecurity

Window Snyder on stage at the 4th Annual Women in Tech Symposium

CITRIS hosted its 4th Annual Women in Tech Symposium: Reimagining Cybersecurity for All on March 6 at UC Berkeley’s Sibley Auditorium.

Focusing on inclusive cybersecurity, the symposium featured women leaders speaking on our shared cybersecurity future. Women in Tech Initiative Athena Award recipients who have championed the advancement of women in technology were also recognized. 

After a welcome by CITRIS Executive Director and Women in Tech Initiative at the University of California co-founder Camille Crittenden, opening remarks were provided by Dawn Song, UC Berkeley EECS professor, focused on “Building a Responsible Data Economy.” 

A fireside chat with Window Snyder, Chief Security Officer at Square and Berkeley Engineering Dean Tsu-Jae King Liu delved into Snyder’s history and experience in cybersecurity. Snyder shared that her mother encouraged her to enter the tech industry after she herself had been discouraged from entering the field in the 1960s. When discussing the use of IoT in the home. Snyder says it’s unreasonable to expect consumers to know the many ways data will be used because the scale is hard for a consumer to wrap their head around, even for practitioners in the field.

The U.S. Cyberspace Solarium Commission Director of Cyber Engagement Laura Bate moderated the first panel: What’s at Stake? Global and Systemic Cyber Threats. All panelists emphasized the need for a systemic response to cybersecurity threats at the societal, corporate, and individual level. With the theme of our conference being “reimagining cybersecurity for all,” Bate asked the panelists who among that “all” inspires their work. Among the responses, panelists named journalists, activists, small business owners that have a lot to lose and smaller countries with vulnerable infrastructure. 

During the Cyber Career Tips & Tricks breakout session, presenters Kavya Pearlman, CEO of Cyber Security Strategist, and Deidre Diamond, CEO and founder of CyberSN/Secure Diversity, discussed their own paths to careers in cybersecurity. Diamond shared that she is in the one percent of people in the field who is a founder, a CEO, and a woman. Pearlman shared that she was working as a hairdresser after college and was inspired by Cyber War, a book by Richard A. Clarke and Robert Knake, and took a chance to change fields, get a master’s in network security, and become a cybersecurity leader and teacher.

Wendy Nather, head of Advisory CISOs at Cisco Systems presented the keynote, “Democratizing Security: From Control to Collaboration.” Nather’s talk focused on the three ways to democratize security: 1) Shifting from control model to a collaboration model, 2) simplifying the design of cybersecurity tools so that it’s easier to be secure and, 3) supporting an open culture of sharing cybersecurity information, education and tools.

The playlist of video recordings from the 4th Annual Women in Tech Symposium 2020 on Reimagining Cybersecurity for All is available here.

The second panel, “Protecting our Identities and Personal Assets from Stalkers, Trolls, and Hackers,” was moderated by Diana Kelley, Cybersecurity CTO at Microsoft, and featured Muthoni Richards of Google, Cat Wendt of IGDA, Ruby Zefo of Uber, and Erica Johnstone of Ridder, Costa & Johnstone LLP. The panel discussed different definitions of identity and privacy, and what it means to violate them. Cat Wendt, a game developer, discussed the experience for women during Gamergate and how the experience drove so many women to leave the field. As a lawyer, Johnstone discussed the challenge of collecting digital evidence and the need for platforms to help preserve it.

The Women in Tech Initiative Athena Awards were presented throughout the day. This year’s awards were presented to Rama Akkiraju for Executive Leadership by CITRIS Director Costas Spanos, Alice Agogino for Academic Leadership by Women in Tech Initiative Senior Advisor Jennifer Mangold, Joy Buolamwini for Early Career by UC Berkeley graduate student Renata Barreto, and Girls Who Code for Next Generation Engagement by UC Berkeley undergraduate students Cara Wolfe and Katherine Shu.

Amy Tong (via video message) and Michele Robinson of the California Department of Technology provided closing remarks. The event concluded with a cybersecurity networking fair and reception in the CITRIS Tech Museum in Sutardja Dai Hall, where art installations by CLTC’s Cybersecurity Arts Contest winners were on display.

The 4th Annual Women in Tech Symposium was sponsored by Lam Research, Microsoft, Berkeley Haas Blockchain Initiative, Cisco, Intel, Crowdstrike, Fortinet, Jumio, Palo Alto Networks, Sandia National Laboratories, University of California Office of the President (UCOP), Berkeley Information Security Office, National Security Innovation Network, One IT, Google, 150 Years of Women at Berkeley, Berkeley Bakar Fellows Program, Berkeley School of Information, Berkeley SKYDECK, Center for Long-term Cybersecurity (CLTC), CyberSN, Coleman Fung Institute for Engineering Leadership, and The International Society of Service Innovation Professionals (ISSIP).


The Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society (CITRIS) and the Banatao Institute drive interdisciplinary innovation for social good with faculty researchers and students from four University of California campuses – Berkeley, Davis, Merced, and Santa Cruz – along with public and private partners.

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