Women Cracked Wartime Codes. They Can Fix Tech Today, Too.

November 15, 2017

November 15, 2017: Before she died in 2016 at age 94, Ann Caracristi, the first female deputy director of the National Security Agency, liked to reminisce about the absurd stereotypes that women had to contend with back when she entered public service during World War II. Chief among these — she found it somewhat amusing — was the notion that women are not as intellectually gifted as men.

In 1942, newly graduated from Russell Sage College, Caracristi was recruited to work in the stuffy attic of a former girls’ school in the Washington area that had been converted to a secret military code-breaking office. The staff, many of them young women like her, sorted reams of intercepted Japanese messages and pioneered new techniques.

Caracristi’s own brilliance soon announced itself: She and her female boss, a schoolteacher from West Virginia, broke a code that enabled the American military to pinpoint the location of Japanese troops. Caracristi would rise to become one of the most storied women in the National Security Agency.

Read more: Women Cracked Wartime Codes. They Can Fix Tech Today, Too. (

Today's women may in fact find themselves welcomed with open arms into the cyber security field. The field faces a shortfall in qualified labor, with up to 1.8 million jobs going unfilled by 2019, as reported by the Global Information Security Workforce Study (GISWS). Add to that an ongoing push within the field to diversify and the gender gap may soon be closed.

Read more: Security Women are Changing the Narrative (

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