Earlier this year, American International Group Inc. added Linda Mills to its board, attracted partly by her expertise in cybersecurity. In February, Wells Fargo & Co. selected Suzanne Vautrinot for its board for similar reasons. Before that, Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. picked Janice Babiak.
All directors, all focused on cybersecurity, all women.
Over the last five years, as data theft has risen to the top of corporate concerns, 16 of the largest U.S. companies have appointed one or more directors with cybersecurity credentials, 10 of them women, a Bloomberg analysis shows. Given the paucity of women in boardrooms — fewer than one in five in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index — the surge has stunned all involved.
“All of a sudden we’re valued,” said Jan Hamby, chancellor at the National Defense University’s iCollege. “Instead of just being the pain that’s causing people to have 12-character passwords that they change every hour.”
The sudden prominence of women like Hamby can be traced back to the 1980s and 90s when they began working on software development and big data because those career paths were new and unclaimed. Linda Hudson, former chief executive officer of defense contractor BAE Systems Plc’s U.S. subsidiary, said many women went through technology while the men in that industry focused on the higher-profile tasks of building tanks and missiles.