Celebrating Experts in Human Aspects of Cyber Security: Mary N. Chaney

Updated: Mar 10, 2021

On the International Women's Day many websites suddenly remember that women as well as representatives of other underrepresented groups are doing cool work in different fields, posting lists and summaries. In contract to the convention, at CyberBitsEtc, we decided to provide an in-depth view on the life and achievement of 5 inspirational women throughout this week, not only giving you links to follow, but explaining why these women are awesome and why they do groundbreaking work (with references to their talks, books, and articles!).

I have not seen these women on any power lists, which, in my own personal view is really unfair. They are unsung heroes, who help us get one step closer to understanding behavioural aspects of cyber security. This is not a ranking of any kind and it is heavily skewed towards my personal interests in cyber security. However, these are scholars and practitioners, whose work I can recommend to read, follow and admire. Because these women are worth it! And they are worth it not because they are women, they are worth it because they are really best at what they do.

Today's spotlight is on Mary N. Chaney!

Mary N. Chaney, Esq., CISSP, CIPP/US is a real inspiration! She is not only an accomplished lawyer, but she also works with leaders across many industries to turn cyber security into a more inclusive and diverse field. According to the Innovation Through Inclusion: The Multicultural Cybersecurity Workforce study, in US alone, diversity and inclusion in cyber security is improving, however, it is still far from reaching its goals: only 9% of cyber security employees self-identify as Black or African-American; 8% as Asian; 4% as Hispanic; and 1% as American Indian or Alaskan Native and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander. Furthermore, there is a big problem with female representation, where according to different studies, the percentage of female cyber security professionals does not reach 20%.

Mary N. Chaney tries to change this, especially through her work at Minorities in Cybersecurity (MiC). While there are many emerging minority leaders, who do amazing work in cyber security, Mary N. Chaney is not only a lawyer, veteran corporate executive and a former Special Agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), but she is also a mentor, who raised awareness of women across many sectors about various cyber security opportunities as well as personally helped dozens of women and men of color to get ahead in cyber security profession.

Mary N. Chaney is an expert in Law, Information Security, Privacy and Risk Management with over 25 years of experience in these fields. She graduated from Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio with her B.S.B.A in Information Systems and received her J.D. degree from Thurgood Marshall School of Law. She spent several years practicing law in Washington, DC focusing primarily on anti-trust and intellectual property rights infringement cases. She then served in the FBI growing to a position of a Special Agent. At FBI, Mary investigated cybercrime and worked as an Information Systems Security Officer.

Mary obtained her Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) certification in 2008 and her Certified Information Privacy Professional (CIPP/US) certification in 2019. In her corporate career, she has held senior level information security roles with Comcast, Johnson & Johnson and GE Capital. Voluntarily, Mary N. Chaney became the Chairman and CEO of Minorities in Cybersecurity, Inc., which focuses on leadership and career development for minorities and women.

Mary also holds advisory board roles at the Cyber Law Consortium, Post University and ChickTECH. She is an Adjunct Professor at the University of Cincinnati where she teaches courses to assist with the development of the next generation of cyber security professionals.

Mary owns a cyber security law practice, The Law Offices of Mary N. Chaney, P.L.L.C., The Cyber Security Law Firm of Texas, where she specializes in coaching leaders to better understand cyber security talent, especially minority talent, helping the Board of Directors, CIOs, CISOs and General Counsels of corporate America and beyond to "understand each other and to legally protect the enterprise from cyber security and privacy risk". Listen to Mary's interview here for more context on her career and her work at MiC.

The unique touch of Mary's fantastic achievement is not only that she made a real difference in the field of cyber security, but she also developed a unique approach of working with cyber security career leaders as well as prepared other mentors. Following in Mary's footsteps, these mentors by own example as well as through valuable advice help women and minority representatives to face many challenges they face when they try to advance in their profession. Mary and mentors inspired by her work create networks and opportunities, as well as help representatives of underrepresented groups to acquire skills, needed not only for cyber security professionals, but also for people who lead them, to make this world a better (more secure and safe) place. Mary proved by her career that it is possible to improve cyber security and privacy in businesses as well as in public sector organizations by ensuring that both future experts (e.g., university students) and practitioners have the resources they need to excel in their careers.

I encourage you to read about this remarkable expert and will leave you with two of my favourite quotes from Mary N. Chaney:

When I was working in corporate America and in government, I saw a culture issue. I’m an African American woman and I had leaders who had never managed an African American woman before, and that created different challenges for them. So, as an employee, how do you deal with the fact that your boss isn’t preparing you [to advance]?


"It’s one thing to say, ‘I want to hire a bunch of people who look different,’ but it’s a different thing to say you have equity in representation across the board. It’s really about fair and equitable representation throughout the entire organization, not just getting a bunch of [diverse] bodies into the organization."

What else can one add here? Inclusion and diversity matters and Mary N. Chaney's life and career shows how they (when done properly!) can contribute to building more safe and secure organizations.