We had the pleasure of hosting ~800 ICS security professionals in Miami South Beach last week at S4x22. While the record number of attendees was a good sign of the growing attention being paid to ICS security, it was the composition of the attendees that is even more encouraging.
Looking More Like Society – Women
The most visible difference in the S4x22 crowd compared to the last event was the number of women attendees. 164 women were at the event, about 20%, or 1 in 5 attendees. This is major progress. The previous S4 event had 85 women attendees, 12% of all attendees.
The Women In ICS Security program helped grow these numbers, and we have already committed to do it again at S4x23. My instinct and analysis is the growth has more to do with the women in the industry than this program. From 2007 to 2018, we would see 2% to 5%, often less than 10 women, at S4 and other ICS security events. Typically a few high profile women would speak over and over at these events. These pioneers deserve tremendous credit, and it still likely was a bit daunting for others to follow in their footsteps.
For reasons unknown to me, by 2020 there were enough women, and women we hadn’t seen before, attending and submitting speaking proposals that it was not so lonely to participate. I’m guessing this idea that it is less novel, uncomfortable and groundbreaking is why we saw the big increase this year. Whatever the reasons, let’s try to build on this.
Looking More Like Society – Part 2
We focused on increasing women in ICS this year because from a pure numerical standpoint they are where the biggest gap exists. Women are the best chance to increase the workforce. While we try our best to be inviting to all, we didn’t have any special program aimed at increasing the racial or ethnic diversity that is lacking in the community. Despite that there was a noticeable, noted by some who had been the lonely few before, increase in diversity as well. Such a great trend line for the community.
The other surprise was the number of attendees in the first decades of their career. New blood. New entrants. Somehow, the community brought a lot of young people into ICS security during Covid. And to the credit of their companies, they were sent to an advanced ICS security event for the first time. Again, progress.
Many of the young attendees were talking about submitting proposals with new ideas to get on stage next year.
It took a long time to get this boulder moving. I’m so pleased that not only didn’t Covid stop it, but it is gaining momentum. Now that it is moving we should all find ways to accelerate it. Not only is it fundamental fairness to the individuals, it also is the best way to solve the lack of skilled ICS security pro’s.
S4x22 / S4x23 FAQ
- The PDF versions of the presentations will be available for attendees on the S4x22 app until June 1.
- The session videos will be released on the S4 Events YouTube channel. Here is the schedule.
- S4x23 will be Feb 13 – 16 in Miami South Beach.
- The S4 CFP is open June 15 – Aug 30. Early submission improves your chances of getting selected.