17+ Female Founders & CEOs in Cybersecurity

2016 Edition
In Celebration of Women’s Entrepreneurship Day November 19, 2016

By Selena Templeton and Connie McLellan
Updated 12-Jul-2017

 

On November 19, 2014, the inaugural Women’s Entrepreneurship Day (WED) was held at the United Nations in New York with 144 nations officially recognizing this day. Thanks to founder Wendy Diamond, we have this conscious, worldwide movement that celebrates and supports female founders and CEOs who have overcome numerous challenges, many of them gender-specific.

Help “celebrate, empower and support women in business” by using the hashtag #ChooseWOMEN when sharing this roundup to social media!

 

Before we get started, I want to share some "simple but important advice" from Jennifer Sunshine Steffens, CEO of IOActive:

* Trust your instincts and challenge the status quo. You’ve likely challenged it plenty to get where you are, so don’t ever stop.

* Build and maintain a trusted network of people who share your values and can be called on comfortably and liberally, especially in areas that might not be your particular strengths.

* Never stop learning. Confidence is a tool that will always prove invaluable to female executives and confidence is rooted in knowledge. Tech is constantly changing so we must be continuously learning and adapting.

* Do something you truly love. If you’re passionate about what you’re doing and your mission, it makes everything else so much easier to achieve.
— Jennifer Sunshine Steffens, CEO at IOActive, Inc.

 

Now, on with the profiles!


Katrin Suess

 
 

Founder of By Geekgirl, a community created for Girls in Tech to inspire young women worldwide to use technology to create a better life for themselves and others. Katrin has worked with 30+ startups worldwide, founded four tech startups, and has 12 years’ experience as a UX designer, front-end developer and startup mentor. She is from Germany though now lives in Australia and enjoys many creative hobbies like painting and singing.


Saryu Nayyar

 
 

CEO of Gurucul, a predictive security analytics company. Saryu has over 10 years of experience in assessment, strategy, design and implementation of information security, identity and access management. She is recognized in the industry as a visionary and thought leader, and has published several white papers in the InfoSec field. She was also awarded Female Entrepreneur of the Year Award at the 13th annual Stevie Awards for Women in Business.


Eva Chen

 
 

Co-founder and CEO of Trend Micro, a data security software and cloud computing security company. Eva has helped the company transition from traditional antivirus software to cloud computing protection, and has been honored for her many accomplishments, including being listed in the Top 10 High-flying Women in Technology by V3 Magazine, Forbes Asia's 50 Power Businesswomen, and the Top 100 Most Influential Executives in the Industry by CRN. She earned a degree in philosophy in Taipei and wrote for a newspaper before moving to the U.S. and earning a master’s in management information systems at the University of Texas at Dallas.


Lisa Xu

 
 

CEO of NopSec, which provides vulnerability risk management solutions to help you prioritize and remediate the most critical threats across your network and applications. Lisa transforms disruptive technology into leading solutions and has advised Fortune 500 companies on data security, privacy, and technology risk management. Aon and Springboard, which help women-led businesses grow, made Lisa a new member. She has a B.A. in Economics, a Master's in Finance, and is an enthusiastic traveler (she’s been to over 30 countries).


Wendy Diamond

 
 

Founder of Women’s Entrepreneurship Day (WED), a global initiative where “the work of women entrepreneurs is observed, discussed, and celebrated” annually on November 19. Although WED is not in the cybersecurity or tech industry, this list wouldn’t be complete without her contribution to and championing of female entrepreneurialism. Wendy is also is a humanitarian, author, TV personality and endangered animal advocate. In fact, she has been called the “Martha Stewart of the Milk Bone Dish” by The New Yorker.


Stina Ehrensvard

 
 

Founder and CEO of Yubico, which provides security solutions for strong two-factor authentication using U2F, OTP, PIV, and more. Stina is a Swedish-American industrial designer and “visionary IT entrepreneur” who creates new technology innovations, like the YubiKey. Inc. named her as one of the  "10 Women to Watch in Tech in 2013."

“If the idea of devoting several years to implement a solution, product or service makes it hard for you to sit still, then you’re most likely on the right track. Inspiration and hard work are the secret. Find a solution to a real problem, surround yourself with a strong team that complements you, think big, and listen to your gut.”
— Stina Ehrensvard, Founder and CEO of Yubico

Renee Chronister

 
 

Co-founder of Parameter Security, an ethical hacking firm, and Hacker University, an accredited training center dedicated to IT professionals. She and her employees are ethical hackers who hack organizations with the goal of showing businesses or government agencies where their vulnerabilities are so they can fix them. Parameter Security holds an annual hacking and InfoSec conference called ShowMeCon.


Megan McCann

 
 

Founder of McCann Partners, a staffing and recruiting company that takes a holistic approach to a business’ IT recruitment needs, and co-founder of ARA, which promotes women in technology through mentorship. In 2015, she was included in the Chicago Tribune’s BlueSky Innovation Vault, a “collection of biographies of Chicago’s tech and innovation leaders.”

As an entrepreneur, I have learned the incredible value of building a community of mentors and advocates who are willing to go out on a limb for you. I would not have been able to build McCann Partners and succeed in the tech recruiting sector without the help of business leaders and remarkable professionals who took the time to show me how and where their organizations succeeded and failed.


I am indebted to generous mentors who coached me and opened doors for me when my rookie credentials couldn’t get me in the room. It takes a lot of ambition to be an entrepreneur, but I believe it also takes humility to ask those who’ve gone before you for help and guidance.


My best advice to those building businesses today is make mentors (yes, more than one!) whom you admire and who are enthusiastic about your company a key part of your business development plan. Sit with them, gain their knowledge, and show gratitude for their time with regular updates on your progress and the willingness to one day be a mentor yourself.
— Megan McCann, Founder of McCann Partners

Allison Esposito 

 
 

Founder of Tech Ladies (sometimes Hire Tech Ladies), which connects women with the best opportunities in tech, and connects companies with the best women techmakers. What started as an invitation on Twitter for women in tech in the NYC area to meet for coffee and network rapidly grew to a worldwide community of 5,000+ subscribers.


Elena Elkina

 
 

Co-founder of WISP (Women in Security & Privacy), a non-profit organization that promotes the development, advancement, and inclusion of women in security and privacy fields. Privacy and data protection expert Elena has a remarkable story that starts with fences and phone taps in Cold War Russia and ends up with a career in the privacy field.

Seventeen years ago I asked a friend who I dearly admire if she paints and she responded, ‘I do not know; I’ve never tried it.’ Her response made me curious. I went home and painted my first canvas. The painting was okay, but my experience was liberating. I began to think about our unlimited human potential and how often we stop ourselves before doing something new. Self-doubt and fear are a big part of our lives, but there is a cure and this cure is saying ‘yes.’ ‘Yes’ opens new doors, begins new journeys, and leads to new experiences, wisdom, and fun.


Saying ‘yes’ helped me and six other women create Women in Security and Privacy (WISP), which is successfully blooming. ‘Yes’ opened the door to my current business venture, which is also expanding. All of us are searching for something — a meaningful job, a profitable business venture, fulfillment in life. Do not look for it too far, for it is right in front of you. Just do it — especially if you’ve never done it before.
— Elena Elkina, Co-founder of WISP (Women in Security & Privacy)

Lisa Foreman-Jiggetts

 
 

Founder of Women’s Society of Cyberjutsu, one of the fastest growing non-profits that helps and empowers women to succeed in the cybersecurity field. Lisa got an honorable discharge from the United States Air Force where she began her career as an IT security specialist and is a service-disabled veteran.


Marci McCarthy

 
 

CEO and President of T.E.N., an information security executive networking and relationship-marketing firm where she founded T.E.N.’s flagship program, the Information Security Executive® of the Year (ISE®) Program Series. McCarthy is a recipient of a 4th Congressional District of Georgia citation, was named the Leadership Character Award winner in the Small/Medium Business Category by the Turknett Leadership Group, and was a finalist in the Technology Association of Georgia (TAG) Tech Marketing Awards. McCarthy is also a contributing author to the WIT book, “CLIMB: Leading Women In Technology Share Their Journeys To Success."

When I started in the industry, it was nothing like it is today. There was limited tech, like antivirus and firewalls and the introduction of intrusion detection technology. I founded the ISE Awards, with several other folks that were passionate about the industry and saw that InfoSec professionals didn’t have a voice, didn’t have a lot of opportunities for recognition and visibility. Their best day was when nothing happened. Their accolades and successes went unnoticed, because that’s when they are successful—when nothing happens. They don’t get a page in the Wall Street Journal or a feature on the news. Throughout the development of my professional life I watched these security professionals in the background of their organization finally gain the recognition and visibility, which explained what they did, what their teams did, for their organization. Our business was able to grow along with them, and we were able to deliver over 110 unique programs across the U.S. and Canada last year recognizing security executives and professionals, creating networking opportunities, and ultimately bringing solution providers and InfoSec professionals together for business development opportunities.

Women are natural multitaskers. We have a natural ability to deal with multiple things happening at the same time. I would say, in cybersecurity especially, that is a real test case. We have to prioritize things all the time and calculate risks constantly. The career opportunities for women in the industry are phenomenal.
— Marci McCarthy, CEO and President of T.E.N.

Lynette Seah

 
 

Founder of Alpha7, a cloud technology company headquartered in Singapore that provides outsourced technology expertise to SMEs. Prior to launching Alpha7, she had a 25-year career  as a chartered accountant (including eight years as Vice President of Finance & Strategy at Salesforce.com), and in 2013 she was recognized by Worldwide Who’s Who for her dedication and excellence as a business leader.


Roshni Mahtani

 
 

Co-founder of Female Founders Network, a non-profit dedicated to supporting gender equality in entrepreneurship and leadership that aims to increase funding to women-founded businesses from 5% (where it’s at today) to 20% by 2020. Roshni is a Singaporean entrepreneur and journalist, as well as an executive producer of Untouchable: Children of God, a 2014 documentary about “the callous abuse of little girls in the brothels of India and how they are drugged, sold and trafficked from neighboring Nepal.”


Mouna Aouri Langendorf

 
 

Founder of Woomentum, a crowdfunding platform that helps female entrepreneurs prosper with resource sharing, mentoring, and funding for startups. Mouna is a Tunisian-born civil engineer and entrepreneur who designed and built bridges for thirteen years before she took the plunge and launched Woomentum.


Mischel Kwon

 
 

Founder of MKA Cyber, a security consulting firm that specializes in Technical Defensive Security, Security Operations and Information Assurance, and the Cybersecurity Diversity Foundation, which supports workplace diversity and inclusion in the field of cybersecurity. Mischel was the former director of the Department of Homeland Security's U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team (CERT).

Becoming an entrepreneur in the cybersecurity field was not a purposeful thing for me. When I was a little girl, I wanted to be Jane Goodall. As an adult, I fell into a field for which I just happened to have an aptitude. Lucky me. As my career unfolded, I realized that I was passionate about doing quality work in a team environment where I enjoyed the work and the people, and could do something that made a difference. This drove me to create MKA Cyber. It is my own personal nirvana.
— Mischel Kwon, Founder of MKA Cyber

Amber Schroader

 
 

Founder and CEO of Paraben Corporation, an investigative technology company that provides software for mobile and computer forensics, as well as the research and development into the Internet of Things (IoT) with the Forensics of Everything TM (FoE). Amber has extensive experience working with forensic investigators from the local to the federal levels and has developed new technology to help obtain digital evidence from computers, e-mail and mobile devices.

I became an entrepreneur in that moment where I realized I could go with what is safe and work a typical job or I could go with my potential and start my own business. It was a scary moment, but it was one I have not looked back on.


Through the years it has been hard being a younger woman running a company and trying to find staff that respects me, and still be able to be who I am as a person. It was a roller coaster, but I found a balance and realized at the end of the day that the only opinion and respect that matters was mine. After I figured that out I knew I could accomplish anything.
— Amber Schroader, Founder and CEO of Paraben Corporation

Jennifer Sunshine Steffens

 
 

CEO at IOActive, Inc., a security consultancy with expertise in hardware, software, and wetware assessments. Jennifer, formerly the director at Sourcefire which she helped grow from $250K to a $35M+ run rate in four years, now runs IOActive’s global business operations.

What I’m passionate about is NOT going to work. Because when you’re passionate about what you do for a living, you don’t have to go to ‘work.’ Running and growing a tech company in a highly competitive fast-moving space that directly impacts the safety and security of real people, products and systems is what I get to do every day. I can’t honestly imagine doing something else that would be as exhilarating and rewarding at the same time. When you have that, inspiration comes easy, as does the desire to inspire the people around you to succeed and achieve new heights. So getting paid to do my ‘job’ is really icing on the cake.

I feel exceptionally proud of what I’ve been able to accomplish to-date as a woman in a conventionally male-dominated STEM field. It hasn’t always been easy, but determination, passion for what you do, and stubborn perseverance are all invaluable tools in climbing the mountain and overcoming the obstacles.
— Jennifer Sunshine Steffens, CEO at IOActive, Inc.

Kirsten Bay

 
 

President and CEO at Cyber adAPT, a security platform that monitors 100% of traffic inside mobile-enabled enterprise networks to detect malicious threats that get through perimeter defenses.

Kirsten has over 25 years of experience in risk intelligence, information management, and policy expertise and has provided recommendations for the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) for the White House energy policy. She is a renowned leader in business transformation initiatives.

From the time I was little, I always wanted to be a CEO – which elicited the belief from my family early on that I ‘walked to the beat of a different drummer’. The interesting thing about my finding the path that I am on today is that I was unsuccessful only when I tried to follow more conventional roads. Why? Because I wasn’t completely true to myself in those moments, and it is very hard to quiet the nay-saying voices when you aspire to big things (which is naturally unconventional).


A huge turning point for me was my first foray into cybersecurity. At the beginning, it was a small study on developing an econometric model for data valuation, but it turned into a passion and vocation that led to running my own company. As with any big dream, I was able to get here through hard work and tremendous support from others. No one makes it this far without a series of hands pushing you forward while witnessing your vision, keeping you grounded, and championing your cause. I knew I had found my home when, even in the early days, so many people – SMART people – embraced me and my ideas. There were, of course, many bumps in the road, but the friendships and champions always remained.


We have a unique industry that is finally getting traction and attention on all levels. I am honored to be one of the trailblazers trying to make challenging problems easier to understand and solve. As a group of unconventional people, it is my hope that our industry can embrace new and diverse faces. As a business leader, I am trying to provide similar opportunities to the next generation of bright minds.
— Kirsten Bay, President and CEO at Cyber adAPT

Tammy Moskites

 
 

CIO & CISO at Venafi, a cybersecurity company that develops software to monitor and protect the security of digital certificates. Tammy is a passionate executive leader with 25 years of IT experience who is a highly sought after speaker. She graced the cover of CSO Magazine in 2014, was named one of the top 25 breakaway CISO leaders by Evanta Global CISO Summit in 2013, and was on the list of the Top Women in Technology for 2013 by CableFax magazine.


Phyllis Newhouse

 
 

Founder and CEO of Xtreme Solutions, Inc., which provides IT end-to-end solutions in information assurance, cyber security and network support, and ranked #13 in the Women Presidents’ Organization’s (WPO) top 50 fast-growing women-owned companies. Phyllis was honored with the Marilyn Johnson Women of Color Achievement Award in 2012, named WIPP National Partner of the Month, and is a retired Army Non-Commissioned Officer and a Service-Disabled Veteran with more than 22 years of military service.


Nicole Eagan

 
 

Founder of Darktrace, a cyber threat defense company and leader in Enterprise Immune System technology, which is powered by machine learning and mathematics. Darktrace has won 20+ awards for this technology, including World Economic Forum Technology Pioneer. Nicole Eagan has over 25 years' experience in the technology industry and her expertise is in developing and executing strategies for high-growth businesses. She also won ‘Woman of the Year’ award at the Cyber Security Awards 2016.


Christy Wyatt

 
 

President and CEO of Dtex Systems, a behavior intelligence platform that combines endpoint visibility, user behavior intelligence, and expert services to stop insider threats. Christy Wyatt is a cybersecurity expert who has helped pioneer multiple groundbreaking ecosystems, including Java, Linux and several mobile operating systems. Christy was named one of Inc. Magazine’s Top 50 Women Entrepreneurs in America in 2015, CEO of the Year by the Information Security Global Excellence Awards in 2014 and one of the top 100 Women Leaders in STEM in 2012. She has also been in consumer and enterprise leadership roles at Good Technology, Citigroup, Motorola and Apple.


About Selena Templeton

Selena Templeton is the Column Editor for the Equal Respect column on ITSPmagazine and covers infosec events for ITSPmagazine where she contributes to the Experts Corner.

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About Connie McLellan

As the project manager for ITSPmagazine, Connie is responsible for managing the word on the street, events, webinars, and press releases.

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