FORT GEORGE G. MEADE, Md. –
This Women’s Equality Day, U.S. Cyber Command is recognizing the important contributions women have made to cyberspace, national security, and public service.
In 1972, Congress officially designated August 26 as Women’s Equality Day, with President Richard Nixon issuing a proclamation soon after calling on Americans to observe the occasion and reflect on the importance of achieving equal rights and opportunities for all women. August 26 is the same date the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was adopted, granting universal suffrage to all women and ensuring the right to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.
First lieutenant Briana Harvey of the Maryland Army National Guard reflected on the meaning of Women’s Equality Day, as well as what drew her to serve. “It’s a day where we can intentionally reflect on how far we have come as women and celebrate inclusivity and diversity. I recognize we would not be where we are now, had it not been for the women who faced adversities and endured the challenges of fighting for our equal rights and opportunities, along with the support of our male counterparts. Those individuals paved the way for us to continue to break barriers and I’m honored to be serving today where I have been able to experience recent Army policy changes firsthand”, she said.
Women’s Equality Day gives us an opportunity to reflect on the many benefits of true equality and the role of women in our public life.
This is especially true in the intelligence and cyber fields. During World War II, more than 10,000 women served as code breakers for the U.S. Army and Navy departments. Agnes Meyer Driscoll, a Navy cryptanalyst, broke the Imperial Japanese Navy’s operational code following the attack on Pearl Harbor and went on to serve in the newly formed National Security Agency (NSA) in 1952. Virginia D. Aderholt became the first person in the U.S. to learn of the Japanese surrender when she deciphered and translated a Japanese transmission stating their unconditional surrender.
Margaret Hamilton is a computer scientist and systems engineer that developed flight software for the Apollo spacecraft and is credited with coining the term “software engineer”. Grace Hopper was a U.S. Navy rear admiral who paved the way for women in computer science by developing an early high level programming language named COBOL that is still in use today. Both women were influential in shaping and influencing many of the tools and programs used by U.S. Cyber Command today.
Despite this long history of service, significant challenges remain.
Rear Adm. Heidi K. Berg director of Plans and Policy for CYBERCOM was among the first generation of women to serve onboard U.S. Navy aircraft carriers. She described a time when she was the only female deployed on a carrier with about 4,500 men.
“The cyber domain needs the nation’s best and brightest talent, and that means we must be as inclusive as possible to ensure we have the biggest talent pool to select from. We also need to ensure we retain the talent we have, which we can do if we create the environment where everyone has a voice. We have more work to do, but the environment at USCYBERCOM and NSA is the best I’ve seen in 31 years serving at sea, in the air, and ashore”, she said.
With the evolution of warfare and cyber, Berg now serves in a key leadership role at CYBERCOM, directing the command's efforts at joint planning, facilitating partnerships, and developing strategies to achieve CYBERCOM's objectives.
A gender gap has persisted through the years at all levels of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines all over the world. Even through women have made tremendous progress towards increasing their participation in higher education, they are still under-represented in those fields.
USCYBERCOM is working to change this dynamic and bring more women into workforce through efforts like the Academic Engagement Network (AEN). Bringing women and new perspectives into USCYBERCOM’s workforce only serves to enhance the organizations collective intelligence, readiness, and effectiveness.
“It’s truly empowering to be able to remain true to myself as a woman while serving my country as a Soldier in the career field of my choosing. Working in the cyber field has allowed me the opportunity to support Maryland in strengthening the state's ability to withstand and respond to cyber-attacks. I look forward to the many milestones the nation will reach in the near future and years to come,” said 1LT Harvey, who currently serves as a member of Cyber Protection Team 169 where she works to defend the cybersecurity of the Maryland National Guard.
For the dedicated women at USCYBERCOM, election security is an enduring, no-fail mission. The Cyber National Mission Force (CNMF) is the principal USCYBERCOM component that, in partnership with the National Security Agency, contributes to the Election Security Group’s efforts.102 years after securing the right to vote, the women serving at USCYBERCOM work to defend U.S. elections from foreign influence and interference.
Women in public service and government have long served this nation by working to clear barriers, enforce laws, implement new ideas, defend the nation, and change people’s attitudes. A diverse work force supported by talented and skilled people are vital to remaining agile and defending the nation in the cyber domain.