The cybersecurity talent gap is no longer just a staffing problem. It has gotten so bad that it is now a matter of national security. To this day, there are over 520,000 unfilled cybersecurity jobs just in the US. No wonder why every day we read in the news about numerous attacks towards government offices, large corporations, small companies, town supplies, schools, and more recently, to COVID vaccine developers.
In the past, we wrote about several ways we, as cybersecurity consulting firms and academies, can help ease this situation. This time, we want to analyze women working in cybersecurity and how they can be part of the solution to the talent gap.
The Lack of Women in Cybersecurity
Over the past few years, we’ve seen how women are gaining territory in cybersecurity. When we look at recent workforce studies, we can see that in 2013 women represented 11% of the worldwide cybersecurity workforce; by 2019, that number grew to 20%. A 9% increase in 6 years is not negligible, but it is not enough; we need to achieve gender equality, especially when you are talking about a field going through an enormous talent gap for several years and a zero unemployment rate since 2011.
So, why is this happening? Why hasn’t cybersecurity been able to achieve some level of gender equality?
There are different reasons. One of them is that there is still a preconception that technical professions are the best options for boys, not girls, among young girls and even their families. This can be either due to the lack of knowledge of what it really means to work in cybersecurity or because of what movies have “taught” us about it: usually, it’s a man hiding behind a hoodie trying to hack large corporations, while the IT guy is alone in a computer room fighting the battle.
Whatever the reason behind this belief is, we need to do something about it. Women and men who work in cybersecurity perform basically the same tasks. They handle security threat detection/remediation, data security, network security architecture, security consulting, and others.
At the same time, we can see how women in cybersecurity face big compensation differences from men. According to ISC2, the salary difference can be from 16% to 20% for the same role, and to make things worse, women tend to emphasize their education and certifications. They work harder in their career advancement. Over the past few years, we have seen that all this effort is starting to pay off: women are now filling more leadership roles than men.
How to Boost Women Involvement in Cybersecurity
This is a job that cannot be made by just one organization, and it requires the joint work of the government, nonprofit organizations, cybersecurity professionals, and even schools. But, don’t let this discourage you from doing your part:
- Help young women develop their desire and aptitude to learn IT: we need programs that help identify girls with a natural interest in IT and develop the necessary skills and knowledge to be successful professionals.
- Encourage girls to participate in hackathons, capture the flag competitions, and others: when participating in different contests, they will realize they have the same opportunities as boys in technology, learning hacking skills, programming languages, and more.
- Women in cybersecurity should serve as mentors to future generations: talking from their experience will encourage other women to pursue a career in the field. Make it a relatable story, cover the challenges you have faced, overcome them, talk about salary differences, and become part of the leadership team. Be a source of inspiration.
- Create mentoring programs: not only do school girls need help developing their cybersecurity skills, but anyone who wants to get started in this field needs guidance, support, and relevant knowledge.
- Fight for gender equality in the field: as we mentioned before, there is still a lot of work to close the gender bias in cybersecurity. Women deserve equal salaries and the same benefits as men, as well as the same growth opportunities.
Attracting more women to cybersecurity is not an easy job. There is a lot that needs to be done, from creating educational programs to encouraging women to get started in the field to write job posting offers to make women feel welcomed to apply. The result of this effort will be beneficial for women and the world of cybersecurity, for large corporations, small companies, and for every citizen of the world.