December 2023 - DNS | Domains | Women in Tech

Expanding the Impact of Women on the Domain Name System

In featuring the Domain Name System’s pivotal role in connecting the online world, Vanda Scartezini & Cheryl Langdon-Orr from DNS Women highlight how their network is leading the way to a more inclusive future. Join us on this transformative journey!

Expanding the Impact of Women on the Domain Name System-web

© AndreyPopov |

The Domain Name System (DNS) is one of the most important components of the Internet for us humans, as it is used to connect domains with hosting and email servers. As a large network of servers located across the globe that contain a distributed database of domain names and IP addresses, DNS is the clear foundation for the global Internet. It therefore goes without saying that, in the management and running of DNS, it makes huge sense to have gender equality in the DNS industry: just to take one example, think of how much better it is to have diverse teams tackling factors such as DNS abuse!

Until recently, however, there has been far fewer women than men involved in this industry. But luckily things are now looking up, with our network, DNS Women, playing a key role in this regard.

Founded in 2009 in Mexico at the 34th meeting of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), our DNS Women network has been dedicated from the outset to globally promoting and empowering women in the DNS industry. Since 2009, we have already hosted 24 events at ICANN conferences in five continents. The most recent of these events, entitled “DNS Women: Expanding Our Impact,” took place at the ICANN Annual General Meeting in October 2023 in Hamburg.

At this congress, we had the opportunity to share in person with 237 participants about how our DNS Women network has been growing and functioning in the past fourteen years. In now sharing these insights with you, we also focus on what we’ve done in the past and the present – and how things are foreseen in the future.

DNS Women: Yesterday to today

Fourteen years ago, our motivation in launching the DNS Women network was very clear-cut: As we took part at the 34th ICANN meeting, we saw how very few women were in attendance and realized how important it would be to take action in order to have more women involved in the DNS industry.

At this early stage, our network initially just involved five women. Fast forward to today, and we now have 374 registered women from 69 countries – 42.7 percent from North America, 19.5 percent from Europe, and the remaining 38.8 percent from Asia/Pacific, LAC, and Africa. As the DNS Women network, we are a highly diverse community, with this not only relating to gender and global locations, but also to age, education, the type of jobs, subject matters, global public or private sectors representation. This facilitates industry-wide collaboration to drive positive growth in the DNS industry.

The high level of participation in the DNS Women network offers tremendous benefits, with numerous members offering ideas and suggestions as to how to boost the proportion of women in the DNS industry. Coupled with these members’ insights, the goals that we have set are the following: to increase the number of women in the DNS industry, to open doors for women in places with limited access, and to create opportunities for our diverse community to thrive.

Core strategies to achieve these goals include encouraging women to join the DNS industry and generating new business opportunities for women. To this end, we have to date inaugurated a range of actions. On our DNS Women website, for example, we regularly produce DNS Women Local Chapters, which offer a forum to make valuable connections and to promote local business, products, services, and talents. Also, by virtue of our wide range of DNS Women meetings at the ICANN conferences, actions have included:

  • Raising the capacity of women, helping them to move upwards from being “resellers” to “Internet hosts”
  • Data protection around the world, focused on benchmarking of legislations
  • A panel on “DNS Women supporting local initiatives”
  • A DNS Women round table titled “Is the market prepared for NEW gTLD round?”, covering advantages, weaknesses, and how to be prepared
  • Tech panels on universal acceptance and the Key Signing Key (KSK) – Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA)
  • Presentations from Women in Tech colleagues
  • Business presentations from the sponsors of our DNS Women meetings at ICANN, with such sponsors including: Afilias, Amazon, AUDA, Cabase, CONAC, Dot Asia, Facebook, Google, ICANN, Markmonitor, Nominet, PIR, Uniregistry, and WebPros

One of the clear outcomes of these related goals, strategies, and actions has been the significant growth in the percentage of women attending the ICANN meetings: While between 2012 and 2017, 27 percent of attendees were women, between 2018 and 2023, this grew to an average of 32 percent of women – and sky-rocketed to 37 percent of women at the ICANN77 meeting in Washington DC in June of this year. Overall, we see this growth as reflecting a “virtuous circle” – in other words, the improved conditions of gender equality in ICANN are leading to a healthier DNS workforce and improved productivity.

What’s particularly valuable to learn is that, of our registered women, 87.8 percent are in high executive positions in their various companies, with this having been displayed from the most recent survey that we undertook among our global participants. We are particularly happy to note that, since the time of that survey, there are now two women at the head of ICANN: Sally Costerton from the UK has been appointed as interim Chief Executive Officer of ICANN, while Tripti Sinha from the University of Maryland is now serving as the Chair of the ICANN Board. As we see it, this indicates a particularly bountiful development in gender equality.

Today to tomorrow

Moving onwards and upwards, we at DNS Women expect to keep growing, embracing our mission, and facilitating more and more women to be part of our network. This will provide the opportunity for women in the DNS industry to learn about and exchange experiences, to join ICANN, to start new businesses, and to make partnerships with other women around the world.

Just to mention some of our planned actions for 2024/2025. These include:

  • Undertaking an updated second survey among our global participants
  • Expanding participation in the women’s contribution to the Internet project
  • New chapters involving women from different regions
  • Work on expanding and analyzing statistics of women’s participation in ICANN
  • Capacitation on cybersecurity e-book
  • Webinars with women worldwide
  • Presentations on the “Empowered Community,” learning about what they do
  • Post articles, sponsors’ logos, and previous documents on the website
  • A project which will capture and highlight the major women who have been female pioneers in the overall Internet industry.

If you are inspired by the DNS industry and would like to become a member of our DNS Women network, you can sign into our website and join now. Because now is the ultimate time to shift the dial for women in tech and for women to thrive in this industry.


Vanda Scartezini is a partner and General Manager at POLO Consultores Associados and is also head of the ICANN DNS Women initiative. Having studied electronic engineering, management specialization, and 3 board courses (US + BR), her subsequent career spans more than 40 years in high management positions in the ICT field, in both the public and private sectors. In her country, Brazil, Vanda acted twice as National Secretary for Technology and Information Technology as well as the President of the Brazilian Patent Office, with her positions including the Federal and SP State Government. Vanda has been a highly active participant at ICANN for 22 years, with her roles including GAC vice chair, member and liaison at the ICANN Board, member and vice chair of the ALAC At-Large Community, SSAC, and member and chair at NomCom. At ICANN, she is also responsible for the creation of the Fellowship Program and DNS Women.

Within ICANN’s At-Large Community, Cheryl Langdon-Orr represents Internet Australia (ISOC-AU) as an ICANN accredited At-Large Structure (ALS) in ICANN’s Asia Pacific Regional At-Large Organization (APRALO) and also as an APRALO representative to the ALAC (2007 - 2011). As Chair of the ALAC, she was appointed to serve on the 1st Affirmation of Commitments Review Team for ICANN, looking at Accountability and Transparency. At the end of 2018, after following the process and progress of the 2nd ATRT and other ICANN Specific and Organizational Reviews extremely closely, Cheryl was pleased to be appointed to also serve on behalf of the ALAC/At-Large in the 2019 3rd Accountability and Transparency Review Team ATRT3.  She is also an Individual member of the GNSO’s Non-Commercial Stakeholder Group (NCSG) in the ICANN Community, and has also served on numerous Working Groups, Work Teams, and Task Forces; for more details on these, see

Please note: The opinions expressed in Industry Insights published by dotmagazine are the author’s or interview partner’s own and do not necessarily reflect the view of the publisher, eco – Association of the Internet Industry.