23 Nov Laura Deaner: Global CISO, Mother of Four, And Yoga Practitioner
A security leader on work-life balance and women in cyber
– Ruth Bashinsky, Senior Editor
Northport, N.Y. – November 23, 2019
Laura Deaner is the face of modern CISOs. Wicked smart. Strong. Confident. Capable. And, female. Part of the new 20 percent of women holding CISO roles at Fortune 500 corporations.
As chief information security officer (CISO) at S&P Global, a Fortune 500 company that gathers intelligence to deliver credit ratings, assessment and analyses to governments, companies and individuals, and co-chair of The Global Future Council on Cybersecurity at The World Economic Forum, Deaner shows what is possible for women globally.
Part of that drive stems from the early days in college when Deaner was getting her computer science degree, and the bias she encountered being one of four women in a class of 300. “It was extremely intimidating,” she recalls. “Sitting in a room with all these men I kept asking myself if I belonged.”
And, the ridiculing she sometimes had to endure. “Is that laptop yours? Is that your boyfriend’s laptop?” It did not take long for classmates to learn not only was it Deaner’s laptop, but that she also had three older brothers.
Born in Kenitra, a city in Northern Morocco, and raised in Norfolk, Virgina, Deaner explains that she and her brothers were the only Moroccan kids in their school.
Assimilating to new and different environments was something she was used to but, as a young female studying computer science during a time when there were still significantly fewer women than men, it was arduous.
“There were times I wanted to quit and one of my brothers would say, ‘No! You get back in there. You just keep doing what you are doing’,” Deaner recalls. Luckily, she listened and felt empowered by the message. “It gave me the ambition to want to prove myself more and show them that I do belong here.”
Clearly, she triumphed.
Enjoying some one-on-one time with Deaner at the S&P Global offices on Water Street that boasts stunning views of Governor’s Island, she radiates warmth and humility, and calls her CISO position a “privilege.”
Being in a leadership role that protects 20,000 employees in 31 countries scattered across the globe is a daunting responsibility. If anyone can handle it, Deaner can. After all, she is the mother of four active boys ages 10, 8, and 5-year old twins.
“Not easy,” she laughs. “That is why I do yoga.”
Deaner is grateful that she grew up in a family that fostered curiosity. The youngest of four children, she remembers how her father — who served in the U.S. Navy — encouraged his only daughter to be curious, and how much he liked to tinker with things while she stood by his side. Her face lights up while talking about her mother, who worked as a Merchant Marine during a time when it was still very much a male-dominated space.
“My mother was always pushing the envelope of being female. She came to this country and learned how to read and write and she became a citizen. She was an amazing woman and an inspiration.”
Five years ago, Deaner’s mother passed away; however, she would be proud of the strong and accomplished woman, daughter, mother, partner, CISO and role model she is today.
The world is in desperate need of more Laura Deaners.
Cybercrime will more than triple the number of job openings over the next 5 years, according to a report published in Cybersecurity Ventures. “To fill the world’s open security positions, we’ll need to grow the number of women in cyber from 20 percent in 2019 to 50 percent over the next decade,” says Steve Morgan, founder and editor-in-chief for Cybersecurity Ventures, and author of the report. “While some people may view that as an overly ambitious goal, it’s one that the cybersecurity industry must aim for.”
“I’m seeing more and more females interested (in cyber),” says Deaner. “I am so happy when I see other female CISOs and I’ll latch on to them and we’ll have conversations.”
Deaner is featured in the book “Women Know Cyber: 100 Fascinating Females Fighting Cybercrime,” which includes numerous CISOs. It highlights that in addition to her current position, the first female CISO at S&P Global, Deaner was previously CISO for PR Newswire, amongst other security leadership and technical roles she’s held for Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup.
The book aims to reach students, parents, and educators, in an attempt to shine a light on the opportunity for high school and college girls to become the world’s future cyber fighters. Deaner is fond of STEM initiatives from many organizations, including Girl Scouts of the USA and the Cybersecurity badges they announced more than two years ago.
As proof of what a truly genuine person Deaner is, we concluded the interview with a warm embrace. Can’t wait to tell my three daughters that “I hugged a CISO!” … and then head off to my yoga class.
– Ruth Bashinsky is the Senior Editor at Cybercrime Magazine
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