Another BYU Best ...

Source: Fortune

How These Mormon Women Became Some of the Best Cybersecurity Hackers in the U.S.
Brigham Young University team members with Raytheon's Jack Harrington at the National Collegiate Cyber Defense Championship.

Sarah Cunha and Laura Wilkinson, two seniors at Brigham Young University, didn’t make it to graduation this year.

Instead, the two women spent their grad weekend, April 22-24, fighting hackers and defending a network from malware attacks at the 2016 National Collegiate Cyber Defense Championship (NCCDC).

The NCCDC, already in its 11th year, is the Olympics of college-level cyber defense. To qualify for one of the ten slots in the national competition, a school must first beat out all the local competition in a regional showdown.

Just seven women participated in the NCCDC—which hosts 10 eight-person teams—this year. BYU’s team accounted for four of those seven: Cunha and Wilkinson are joined by junior Cara Cornel and senior Whitney Winder.

So, what is it about the BYU team that’s been so successful when it comes to attracting women? Part of the answer can be traced to the school’s large Mormon population. Indeed, all four women on the school’s NCCDC squad identify as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of  Latter-day Saints (LDS),

 “There is a stereotype in the Church for men to be the breadwinners, but I think IT in particular gives [a woman] the option of being a breadwinner whether [she] wants to be out in the world or stay at home,” [says Dale Rowe, a BYU professor of information technology who coaches the team]. “For LDS women, it’s a very attractive option because they’re not being governed in their lifestyle choices.”

Moreover, the Church already has strong ties to the U.S. government, as members of the LDS community—most of whom abstain from the consumption of alcohol, caffeine, and tobacco—make for excellent public servants, says Cunha. “I think that’s one of the benefits of BYU—we have an honor code that we follow, so it’s not any kind of significant change for us to have a background check and be trusted with governmental data,” she says.

Both Wilkinson and Cunha have jobs lined up after the graduation—which, incidentally, was worth missing: the BYU team, in its first year at NCCDC, won second place.

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