Tonight’s Commander-in-Chief News Forum presented by NBC and moderated by Matt Lauer is focused on national security, military affairs and veterans issues. Is there room to discuss women and how they are disproportionately affected in these concerns? Yes.

Here’s what we would ask if we were there:

The Gender Gap in Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity is one of the most important economic and national security challenges the US faces. However, the cybersecurity industry faces a skills shortage—more than 200,000 jobs are unfilled, and the demand for professionals is expected to grow by 53% through 2018.[1] Women represent only 10% of this workforce[2], which reflects the general underrepresentation of women in STEM fields. Like the challenges women continue to face in the workplace overall, reasons for the gender gap in STEM are often attributed to gender stereotyping about aptitude and interest, the culture of overwork with little-to-no family-friendly flexibility, a lack of professional networking opportunities, and wage disparities. Research shows that cutting female attrition in science, engineering, and technology by just 25% would add 220,000 highly qualified workers to the labor market[3] without increasing H-1B immigration visas. What social, economic, and educational reforms will you advance to increase women’s participation in STEM fields, particularly information security, to shore up our nation’s cybersecurity deficits?

Human trafficking

As a subset of transnational crime linked to terrorism, drug trade, and public health challenges, human trafficking is a recognized threat, directly and indirectly, to national security. Human trafficking is the forced labor or commercial sexual exploitation of men, women, and children. Of the estimated 21 million enslaved, 55% are women and girls who are forced into various forms of sexual activity[4], including prostitution and pornography. Traffickers often take advantage of poor, unemployed individuals who lack access to social safety nets. Some would argue that we are all complicit in human trafficking as we rely on cheap goods produced by vulnerable laborers and ignore the commercial sexual exploitation that occurs in our own communities. What policies would your administration pursue domestically and internationally to curtail human trafficking?

Women and the VA

With women now entering military combat roles and representing 15% of active military duties[5], it is crucial that federal systems expand to address the acute and disproportionate issues that affect 2 million women veterans. Although homelessness among veterans is decreasing overall, the number of homeless women veterans is on the rise, with veterans 3 or 4 more times likely to become homeless than civilian women. Their readjustment issues are exacerbated by the following challenges: Military Sexual Trauma; single motherhood and primary childcare responsibilities, especially during rehabilitation; a greater chance of unemployment and wage disparity; the lack of gender-specific medical resources during active duty and in the VHA; and little recognition from a society familiar with only male veterans. In short, many women veterans are made to feel invisible. What will your administration do to meet the needs of the growing female military and veteran populations?

[1] http://www.csoonline.com/article/2953258/it-careers/cybersecurity-job-market-figures-2015-to-2019-indicate-severe-workforce-shortage.html

[2] https://www.isc2cares.org/IndustryResearch/GISWS/

[3] https://hbr.org/2008/06/stopping-the-exodus-of-women-in-science

[4] http://polarisproject.org/facts & http://www.ilo.org/global/about-the-ilo/newsroom/news/WCMS_243201/lang–en/index.htm & http://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/—ed_norm/—

[5] http://www.scpr.org/news/2016/07/11/62418/va-working-to-make-female-veterans-more-welcome-vi/

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