The lack of women in cybersecurity has been a major talking point over the last few years, as well it should be. There have been several studies that suggest women comprise as little as 10% of the cybersecurity workforce, and that this number has not improved by any significant amount.
We sat down with a specialist IT recruiter to find out why there was such a disparity between the number of men and women in cybersecurity and what could be done about it. You can watch the full discussion here.
Why Aren’t Women Getting into Cybersecurity?
This is a complex, multifaceted problem, but I think it boils down to a few key points. Firstly, there isn’t enough encouragement, at a young age, for girls and young women getting into cybersecurity. We have seen progress in this area, but it is nowhere near enough.
Secondly, cybersecurity still has an image problem in the media and in public perception. If you were to poll the general populous, you would probably find that cybersecurity would be associated with hoody-wearing, basement-dwelling men. This kind of perception has not been helped by popular TV-shows like Mr. Robot, for example (no matter how good they are to watch).
This kind of perception isn’t very likely to attract a diverse workforce and has contributed quite heavily to a male dominated industry that many women feel they cannot be a part of.
Then there is, of course, the usual problems with gender inequality that we now know are ones that need to be addressed. Women are generally underpaid for the same positions, less likely to receive promotions, more likely to be laid off, discriminated against and harassed. These problems are exaggerated in an industry where the biggest reasons for people exiting are down to a lack of career growth and overwork.
How Do We Get More Women into Cybersecurity?
Better marketing in the industry is definitely needed to address the image issue, and better education is required to encourage women to enter cybersecurity related courses, degrees and jobs from a younger age.
There is also a perception that being a cybersecurity professional means that you have to be overly technical, obsessed with code and infinitely knowledgeable. Whilst this may be true for some roles, a lot of the higher managerial roles in cybersecurity require more interpersonal skills than technical ones – especially now that cybersecurity has a place at board level in the form of a CISO or CIO. There is simply no reason why women cannot assume these roles. Communication skills, managerial skills, leadership skills, teamwork and problem solving are all things in which women in general excel just as much as men.
Why Women in Cybersecurity is Important
We are in the middle of a worldwide crisis where cybersecurity is concerned. Attacks are becoming more frequent, targeted, sophisticated and disastrous year upon year. Organizations are beginning to wise up to the fact that poor cybersecurity can cripple operations and the bottom line, but they are still not doing enough to address the issues.
CISCO estimates that there are more than a million cybersecurity-related jobs worldwide that remain unfilled. This represents a significant issue. There is generally a lack of qualified cybersecurity professionals available to fill these roles. Getting more women into cybersecurity as early as possible is one of the only ways we are going to be able to quickly bridge this skills gap.
There are some great strides being made towards getting more women into cybersecurity and there are some fantastic women making waves in the industry already. But there is much more that needs to be done. If you’re a woman in cybersecurity and you would like to share your thoughts with us, we would love to chat with you.
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to be a part of our podcast series, CISO Talks.