The 2017 Global Information Security Workforce Study: Women in Cybersecurity gave a detailed review of the latest composition of the gender divide in the cyber security workforce. The report revealed that the number of women in cyber security is less than in almost all other fields of specialization.
The study conducted by the Center for Cyber Safety and Education showed that of all the workforce in the US information security field, only 14 per cent are women. This was an all-time low considering that 48 percent of the US workforce are women. Although the report found out that cyber security is a field that is facing acute shortage of professionals of both sexes, the shortage of women was alarming in comparison to their male counterparts.
Top Women in Cyber Security
This is not to say that there are no women in this field. There are several that have sped up the ladder and through the glass ceiling in this field to become top managers, directors and advisors in Cyber arenas. Donna Dodson, the Associate Director and Chief Cybersecurity Adviser, NIST; Masha Sedova, the co-founder of Elevate Security; and Kimber Dowsett, a Security Architect in 18F, are some of the ladies who have made it big in the world of data protection. Other big names include Jessy Irwin, the VP of Privacy and Security, Mercury LLC; Suzanne Vautrinot, the President of Kilovolt Consulting, Wells Fargo board member and a retired Major General and Commander of the United States Air Force; and Amanda Rousseau, a malware researcher at Endgame.
This leaves us with one big question; what is holding women back from pursuing careers in technology?
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Why do women shy away from Cybersecurity?
CREST, a U.K-based non-profit accreditation and certification organ working in the IT security field held its CREST 2016 Diversity Workshop where it reviewed the opportunities woman had in the data security industry. During the workshop, attendees were asked why they detested the IT sector and why majority women don’t work in cyber security field.
· Male dominated field
There are women who do not want to break the perceived ‘status quo’ of male dominated careers. Some interviewed ladies saw cyber security and hacking as male dominated and thus feared that they would not make it in this field.
· Language barrier
Majority of the respondents argued that the language used in the cyber security field puts them off. To start with, the language is too opaque and intimidating for newbies especially those without background in IT. They pointed out that the industry is too technical and for one to fit in, one has to be a ‘geek’. Thus, feeling out of place, they opt for other professions.
· Education and skills
Education and skills are one of the main problem keeping women away. Dana Simberkoff, a greatly experienced veteran currently working at AvePoint, says that to become an expert in security profession, you need a background in STEM; Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. Unfortunately, this is the source of the problems for women. Many women avoid this educational route. Without the prior knowledge, the lock themselves out from a cyber career from an early age.
Why Women should explore Cyber Security
Cyber security has only what to gain from a serious female input. There are various reasons why women should try out these techie career paths.
1. Job security
With the growth in sophistication and scale of cyber-crime, cyber security jobs are getting more secure. The Bureau of Labor Statistics in the U.S. Labor Department set the cyber security jobs to grow by 35.5% by 2022.
2. Competitive pay
A high demand and low supply translates into lucrative paychecks. There are few qualified cyber specialists being churned into the job market every year, while the demand is quite high. A survey on 775 IT specialists across 8 countries showed that they are paid 2.7 times the average wage.
3. Workforce diversity
With many companies seeking to recruit more women, qualified women are under high demand.
4. Lead the way
The data security field is facing shortage of female role models. For this reason, you are encouraged to pursue this career and act as a role model to other ladies.
5. Make an impact
This industry offers you a chance to make a real impact by helping in securing of data, intellectual property, assets, corporations, governments, private firms and individuals. Take the chance to make the world a little bit safer.
With the rapid rise in the number of hackers and increase in cyber-criminal activities, it is important that the world, corporates, and private firms invest more resources in the security of data, information and assets. The growth on internet of things has left many entities exposed to attacks by hackers. The cyber security professionals and experts are the first line of defense when these attacks occur. Having more women in the field will lead to improved protection and outright, a safer world.
By James Azar on 1/15/18
Article first reported at CyberHub Summit