Admissions Blog

Researching Resources for Women in Cybersecurity: Interview with a Research Assistant

By Bonnie Ewart-Fisher '25
Posted Mar 08 2024
SIPA students Danielle Murad Waiss (‘21), Annabelle Larose (‘22) and Camille Hidalgo (‘23) were named FS-ISAC Women in Cybersecurity Scholars. SIPA has FS-ISAC Scholars every year who launch successful careers in the financial sector.


The SIPA Cyber Program is Columbia’s interdisciplinary hub for research and engagement on all matters related to the nexus of cybersecurity and policy. It focuses on topics including systemic cyber risks, cyber conflict, and the policy challenges of trust and safety. Much of the work conducted by SIPA Cyber comes from continued support and help from SAP Global and their Chief Trust Officer, Elena Kvochko. Bonnie Ewart-Fisher (MIA-HRHP’25) works as a Research Assistant at SIPA Cyber and we will hear about her experience researching resources to increase the number of women in the cybersecurity field below!

What motivated you to work with SIPA Cyber and what has your experience as a research assistant been like so far?

When I decided to join SIPA, I told myself I wanted to leverage my past experiences while also engaging with as many new topics and areas of study as possible. I had a fair bit of experience working for a PR company in Tokyo where I worked on advocacy for women’s health, ESG investing, and other initiatives. I also led an account for one of the world’s preeminent organizations for cybersecurity certification and I was struck by their research into the gendered workforce gap in cyber–it was clear the field’s growth outpaced the number of cyber professionals and attracting more women into this traditionally male-dominated field was one solution. So when I learned about SIPA Cyber’s initiatives to provide assistance to students developing cyber skills, the diverse and impressive scholars who call SIPA home, and the program’s US-Japan Cyber Dialogue it seemed like the perfect opportunity to combine my past expertise with a burgeoning new interest in cybersecurity. 

I’ve been a research assistant with SIPA Cyber for half a year and I’ve worked on a number of interesting projects, like helping edit the latest New York Cyber Task Force report covering the private and public sector’s views on operational collaboration. But one of my favorite experiences so far has been collaborating with partners across campus, our team members, and our amazing alumni to collate resources for our students, especially for those who come from backgrounds not traditionally represented in the cyber field like women. I’ve greatly enjoyed being able to learn more about and contribute to initiatives that help address gender parity in the field.

What have you learned about the workforce gap in the cybersecurity field? What kind of experiences and resources are there at SIPA for women interested in cybersecurity?

I’ve had the unique opportunity to look at the workforce gap and the resources available to women specifically through the point of view of SIPA students, professors, and alumni. Hearing the different stories of our alumni’s experiences and knowing the support we receive from our faculty reassures me that the skills students gain here at SIPA will prepare them to be leaders in the field who break down the gender gap in the workforce.

In my time researching the experiences of women in the field, I’ve talked to many alumni about their time at SIPA and how it prepared them for entering the field. Thanks to the certification preparatory materials SIPA Cyber coordinates and the amazing coursework led by our leading faculty, our alumni provided firsthand accounts of the excellent experiences they’ve had and the myriad resources they’ve used to gain cyber expertise and jumpstart their careers.

Bridget Chan (MPA-ISP’22) suggested her favorite SIPA course: “Cybersecurity in the Indo-Pacific. It was my very first cybersecurity policy class at SIPA, and it was a great crash course to cybersecurity, geopolitics, and technology.”

She also highlighted the importance of networking with our expert faculty: “Your professors are valuable resources to connect you to other professionals, and the bonus is that they've seen you in class before and can attest to your work ethic. I'm actually in my current role partially because of this; after I was hired the hiring committee told me my professor had emailed them vouching for my qualifications.”

Amira Dhalla (MPA-HRHP’20) highlighted the importance of networking at cyber events around New York City, advising: “Don't forget to leverage all your experience at SIPA! If you participated in DCG [Digital Cyber Group] events, Cyber 9/12 Strategy Challenge, cyber courses, or others, be sure to highlight these experiences and how they helped you develop your skills.”

She emphasized the importance of seeking out supportive communities: “Here are a few organizations that I've been part of that help support diversifying the cyber field which I share with others now:

  • Women in Cyber Security (WiCyS) focuses on the recruitment, retention, and advancement of women in cybersecurity. They have an annual event where they encourage students and professionals to attend and provide many resources for female-identifying community members in the field.
  • Black Girls in Cyber helps increase the diversity of Black women in cybersecurity. My mentee was a fellow and they work with entry-level individuals by offering paid certification and mentorship.
  • Out In Tech is a community for LGBTQ+ individuals in tech. They have been growing out their resources for individuals in cyber and offering resources and community to queer individuals in the field.”

Any final thoughts for students considering studying cybersecurity at SIPA?

I think the Director of SIPA Cyber, senior research scholar (and my boss!) Jason Healey, sums up SIPA’s strengths well:

“Schools like SIPA have a great role to play to bring women into cybersecurity. It is well documented how girls and young women can be turned away by traditional STEM fields. SIPA – where over two-thirds of our students identify as female – has introduced a wide range of courses to bring students up to speed on cyber issues for future careers in cyber. Our alumni may not be as technical as those coming out of a traditional STEM school, but they bring a wealth of other talents which are critically needed to solve cybersecurity: they can write, think, and analyze and they understand international relations and public policy. We have built a full curriculum to prepare SIPA students for all of the cyber careers they are most likely to want to enter, including intelligence, business cyber risk, cyber and digital policy, government affairs, and trust and safety.”

We hope you will join us at SIPA and take advantage of all of the opportunities to learn more about the cybersecurity field. Let’s bridge the cybersecurity workforce gap!