LEXINGTON, Ky. — Alex Keedy, a local cyber professional at Intel 471, made the shortlist of finalists for Women in IT’s “Next Generation Leader of the Year” award. The honor is given to women under 30 who have showed innovation using technology while progressing through their careers. 

What You Need To Know

  • Alex Keedy never thought she would work in IT

  • At age 29, she is up for major award

  • Keedy has three college degrees, none in technology

  • She thinks a lack of women in IT field could change with remote, hybrid work options

Keedy, 29, has degrees from the University of Kentucky and Johns Hopkins University. A colleague at cybercrime intelligence firm Intel 471, where Keedy is the senior director of customer success, nominated her for the award.

Women in IT's "Next Generation Leader of the Year" award is given to a woman under the age of 30, or who turns 30 in 2022, who has progressed rapidly though their career and demonstrated business value and innovation using technology.

Candidates must have a two-year track record of work and contribution to their organization. The winner will be announced Sept. 14 at a ceremony in New York City.

Keedy did not intend to enter the male-dominated field of information technology when she graduated from UK with a degree in political science.

"I've worked in cybersecurity since graduating from the University of Kentucky and also interned during that time," she said. "That's kind of how I found myself in this position."

According to the American Enterprise Institute, just 24% of computing jobs are held by women and women leave the tech industry at a 45% higher rate than men.

"When I was taking my first course at the University of Kentucky in cybersecurity in 2015, only 11% were women in the IT field," Keedy said. "It's up to 24%, now, but it's still very marginal."

Keedy said she thinks a lot of women don't choose to go into those types of roles because they feel it's too technical.

Alex Keedy, a two-time University of Kentucky graduate, has been nominated for the Next Generation Leader of the Year award from Women in IT. (Alex Keedy)

"It's stereotypically STEM -- science, technology, engineering and math -- you see more heavily male dominated than females I'm seeing working in those fields," she said. "Also, it's not great if you want to have a family because it can be very demanding. My first job, I started out working really odd hours, sometimes 10 to 14 hours a day. If women are trying to start a family, that's not really ideal for them. It's not suitable if you have a child at home, either. I think those factors contribute to why women typically don't go into the field or even are interested in it."

The percentage of female STEM graduates is about 19%, according to the American Enterprise Institute.

Keedy said she expects the number of women in the IT field to continue growing as companies deviate from traditional working conditions.

"I just think that you will see more women, as you hear more stories about how there's more work life balance, more remote options," she said. "COVID really showed us you can work from home. So I've seen a lot more women try to switch career paths and go into cyber. Also, just hearing stories of non-traditional backgrounds. I didn't go into the office with a coding software engineer, technical background. I graduated with a political science degree and then a master's in international relations from UK, and neither of those are technical degrees.

Keedy said Intel 471 employs many women, but at a previous job, she was the only woman on a team of 20.

Before being employed full time in cybersecurity, she worked as an English teacher in Madaba, Jordan, was a cybersecurity intern for the Kentucky Office of Homeland Security, spent two years in a marketing position, founded and operated a modeling agency, was a graduate assistant at UK and was a Spanish/English translator for the Lexington Legends.