With the growing number of high-profile cyber-attacks threatening organizations across the globe, concerns about data privacy, management, and security have skyrocketed in recent years. There is an ever-increasing need for skilled cybersecurity professionals to fill the gaps in organizations’ security infrastructure—which are often quite wide—but almost half a million more workers are needed to adequately close the skills gap and meet demand in the U.S. So, why have women found it so difficult to break into an industry that clearly needs them? Why aren’t more women in cybersecurity?
Cybersecurity trends: Where do women fit in?
Unfortunately, the male-dominated cybersecurity industry has historically excluded women. While the industry continues to grow, gender equality is not the norm.
That’s right, only 20% of the cybersecurity workforce globally are women. Why has an industry so desperate for highly skilled workers failed to take advantage of the countless women who are eager to take a seat at the table?
Considering the 3500% increase we’ve seen in cybersecurity spending since 2004, it’s clear the demand for trained professionals won’t be slowing down soon. Inclusivity and diversity are concepts that more hiring managers and the industry at large will have to accept to meet this increasing demand.
Plus, while cybersecurity is deeply rooted in technology, it’s just as much about collaborative problem solving, good risk management practices, and corporate-wide implementation and training. These are all skills that are not bound by a certain gender.
Why the cybersecurity industry needs more women
Interestingly, a 2019 S&P Global Study found that companies with women in leadership roles were more profitable than those with men who are CEOs or CFOs. There are endless benefits to diversifying teams, but this is especially true for those in the cybersecurity disciplines.
Increasing the number of women in cybersecurity roles helps to promote different perspectives. That can create new opportunities for growth, creativity, and innovation.
The need for diversity in cybersecurity is critical because of the nature of the industry—many of the cybercriminals, threat actors, and hackers come from a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences themselves. The chances of cracking the code of the schemes of these diverse criminals are higher when the cybersecurity professionals pursuing them are also diverse.
With the demand for capable, hard-working security professionals so high, the threat to innocent people, organizations, and communities and the critical networks within them remains alarmingly high as well. Ultimately, the vast number of empty cybersecurity positions makes it detrimental to narrow the pool of people pursuing the field by something like gender.
Gender stereotypes in STEM
The perception that careers in STEM are more suitable for males than women is something that society generally puts on children at a very young age. It plays a significant factor in the visible lack of women in tech careers.
For example, consider the sight of a single woman among a group of men on leadership boards or technology teams. That only reinforces this perception.
This has led to an unfortunate reality. That is, women have consistently had to push harder for access to the same opportunities and recognition as their male counterparts. Of course, there are women who are rocking the cybersecurity field, and there are more opportunities to come. But, sadly, it’s an uphill climb at this point to be in the male-dominated industry.
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On growing cybercrime and gender equality
Cybercrime will more than triple the number of positions that need to be filled in this industry in the next five years, and 3.5 million cybersecurity job openings are predicted to surface throughout 2021. Long-term stability and security in the ever-expanding world of cyberspace won’t be achieved without a collective push towards attracting, retaining, and promoting the inclusion of more women in this critical field.
Infographic from Panda Security
14 thoughts on “Women in cybersecurity: Why we still need more”
I got out at the end of the 90s due to the continual harassment, I just could not keep dealing with it. I’d hoped that by now, 20 years later, things would be better, but the fact that they are not just makes me keep thinking that I was right, unfortunately. I often feel guilty for not going back into IT, but what I’m hearing and seeing seems to indicate that society is almost worse than back then.
I’ve had people comment here saying that gender inequality isn’t a “thing” anymore but your comment and the research I do tells me otherwise. Thanks for sharing your story x
Thank you for helping to educate others.
In Service to HumanKind,
-Shira Destinie Jones
Thank you for doing the same x
What a world we live in!
Some want to live decently and honestly.
Some want to steal the harvests of others.
Some just enjoy being trouble makers.
Some have far leaning mandates based on power and religion.
Me, I have a massive catalogue of User Names and Passwords. No 2 are the same.
I also have tape over the camera lens on my laptop.
Those passwords, the list is ever-growing!!
I feel like a lot of the reason that women have such a low representation in technical areas like cyber security is that I feel like a lot of the technical interview process is tailored towards men. Not that women couldn’t do well in a technical interview. But since the industry is so male-dominated to begin with, A lot of the nature of interviews often does not take advantage of women bring to the table.
Yes, an interview bias is a real thing. Thanks for adding that important point here, Eric.
New tech brings new loopholes…
Very surprising that only 20% of the global cybersecurity workforce is female. We need to do better. Thanks for an interesting article, Christy.
It really is shocking. Thanks for appreciating the topic, Michelle.
Hopefully,, as more female students take more STEM
classes, this will make the future look very different.
Agreed, Christy! For women also great to schedule their work like its possible. But we need to get this into the brains of the “old white/ wise men”. ;-) Have a beautiful week! Michael