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Celebrating Women at ICANN

31 March 2021

Three notable ICANN women, Merike Käo, Karen Lentz, and Alejandra Reynoso
From left to right: Merike Käo, Karen Lentz, and Alejandra Reynoso.

In honor of Women's History Month, ICANN is profiling outstanding women representing the three parts of our multistakeholder model – the community, the Board, and the organization. The three women are Alejandra Reynoso, Country Code Names Supporting Organization (ccNSO) Chair; Merike Käo, ICANN Board; and Karen Lentz, Vice President, Policy Research and Stakeholder Programs. Learn more about Alejandra, Merike, and Karen below, how they recommend we get more women involved in ICANN, and who they choose as their heroines.

ICANN community

Alejandra Reynoso, ccNSO Chair

With a master's degree in computer science and technology, Alejandra joined .gt country code top-level domain (ccTLD) in 2011, which is located in her alma mater Universidad del Valle de Guatemala. As a researcher and technology developer, Alejandra is responsible for all technical aspects and information systems of the .gt registry. Her native language is Spanish, and she is fluent in English and Portuguese. In 2011, Alejandra began her journey at ICANN as a Fellow at ICANN41 in Singapore. She then joined the ccNSO, was a working group member, and later a chair of a working group. In 2015, the Latin American and Caribbean members elected Alejandra as a ccNSO Councilor and since ICANN64, she was one of the two ccNSO Council Vice Chairs. During ICANN70, the ccNSO Council appointed Alejandra as Chair.

Why is it important to get more women involved in ICANN?

  • Maintaining a good balance in diversity is key to having different points of view and, therefore, richer discussions.

What can we do to get more women involved in ICANN?

  • Preserve and promote a respectful and professional environment, where anyone can feel comfortable to participate without prejudice.

Who are your heroines?

  • Without a question my mother, who has always been ahead of her time, is open-minded and convinced that intelligent people can achieve anything they want with hard work and dedication. Any woman that does everything in her power to materialize her dreams, and helps others in her journey, is a heroine.


Merike Käo, ICANN Board

Merike is serving as a non-voting liaison for the Security and Stability Advisory Committee (SSAC) and is Chief Information Security Officer at Uniphore, a conversational artificial intelligence technology company. Formerly, she was Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Double Shot Security. She has over 25 years of experience in pioneering Internet technology deployments and developing strategic security initiatives. Merike instigated and led the first security initiative for Cisco Systems in the mid-1990s and authored the first Cisco book on security, Designing Network Security, which was translated into multiple languages and widely used in security accreditation programs.

She has held a variety of executive leadership positions and has a deep-rooted history in the global Internet community having contributed to many Internet governance organizations. Merike is a longstanding member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). She is also a pioneering member of the Internet Society and has been an active Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) contributor since 1992. She was named an IPv6 Forum Fellow in 2007 for her continued efforts to raise awareness of IPv6-related security paradigms. She has been a member of SSAC since 2010.

Merike earned a master's of science degree in electrical engineering from George Washington University, a bachelor's of science degree in electrical engineering from Rutgers University, and is fluent in Estonian, German, and English.

Why is it important to get more women involved in ICANN?

  • I find that women bring an added dimension to the discussions with viewpoints that represent distinct gender and cultural gender-specific experiences. It is also useful for women to have female role models to empower female participants to become community leaders.

What can we do to get more women involved in ICANN?

  • One of the barriers to female participation is their responsibility for family caregiving aspects. A consideration for future hybrid meetings where some online participation can still happen in addition to face-to-face meetings may make contributing to ICANN more accessible for women who cannot travel. I believe the ICANN community today has many women in leadership roles and they could be utilized in ICANN community outreach programs to encourage women to get more involved. I also think the Domain Name System (DNS) Women initiative has been a wonderful way for women to network. I would encourage the continuation of these gatherings and increase the visibility of these gatherings when in a virtual setting.

Who are your heroines?

  • I have always admired women who are true to themselves, hold themselves to a high degree of integrity, take responsibility for their actions, support others regardless of gender or other differences, and persevere through any adversity. I will credit my mother for having these traits and encouraging me to follow my heart which was in the technical world. My heroines would include anyone who has these traits.


Karen Lentz, Vice President, Policy Research and Stakeholder Programs

Karen Lentz joined ICANN in 2003 as generic top-level domain (gTLD) Registry Liaison. In her tenure at ICANN org, she has worked on registry contract amendments, consensus policy implementation, rights protection, and other areas, including development of the gTLD Applicant Guidebook for the New gTLD Program. Prior to ICANN org, she handled copyright and licensing processes for Science magazine. Karen holds bachelor's degrees in English and political science, as well as a master's of fine arts degree in writing and a master's of science degree in journalism. Her areas of responsibility include implementation of policies, recommendations, and advice; subject matter research and analysis; and the Internationalized Domain Names and Universal Acceptance programs.

Why is it important to get more women involved in ICANN?

  • The multistakeholder model works better when more points of view, skills, and experiences are included. ICANN is at its most effective when we can tap into this collective wisdom.

What can we do to get more women involved in ICANN?

  • Most people I've encountered at ICANN are inspired by our mission and the reach of what we do, and the desire to be part of that. Creating a path into ICANN is key and developing an awareness that, whatever skills you bring to the table, they are needed.

Who are your heroines?

  • Always my mother, who is the best example of unselfishness and lifting up others. I see a lot of everyday heroism in the world too. These are hard times, and so many women are continuing to help and work for others in the face of illness, racism, violence, and setbacks. These are heroines to me.

DNS Women's Panel Discussion

If you missed it, you can watch or listen to a recording of the DNS Women's Panel Discussion: Data Protection Laws, which was held on 22 March 2021. Founded in 2009, DNS Women is the first organization dedicated to promoting and empowering women in the DNS industry.

And if you're interested in learning more about ICANN and participating, visit our Get Started page to learn how.


Sally Newell Cohen

Sally Newell Cohen

SVP, Global Communications