Cybersecurity is experiencing a worldwide shortage. Over 3 million positions are open to those who possess this in-demand skill. More than 500,000 roles are waiting to be filled in America alone. As the fields of cyber and infosecurity grows, the demand is only expected to increase.
More than $6 trillion worth of cybercrimes will impact the world’s economy in the next three years. Cybersecurity is an urgent need and many companies and global leaders are wondering how to close the skills gap. They aren’t looking toward one of the most powerful resources to end this shortage: women.
Women barely make up 20 percent of global info security payrolls at just 11 percent of global industry workers. The shocking lack of representation cannot just be attributed to hiring bias.
Science, technology, engineering and mathematics comprise STEM. Aside from underrepresentation in cybersecurity, STEM professionals are missing women in their ranks. This is despite generations of gender rights initiatives. Many women shun STEM as they are not treated well in these male-dominated fields. This is mind-blowing as women consistently score as well as men or better on math and science-related tests.
Women do not want to expose themselves to the sting of being underpaid, overworked and overlooked. Overcoming this issue will take the might and dedication of hiring managers and C-suite leaders.
Hope may be dawning as 10 percent of women in cybersecurity have owner/CEO/president in their job titles, compared to nine percent of men. Women are being promoted to high-ranking cybersecurity positions more than ever before. Some may think this is because of the desperation to fill so many cybersecurity positions. Whatever the reason, women are finally gaining traction in the industry.
The goal is to bring female representation up to 50 percent for true equality. Knowing how the shortfall started is key. To do that, a granular look must be taken.
STEM programs are now a mainstay in schools. Teenagers have started thinking about their careers. Young women are now joining these programs after decades of being informed that this is not their area of expertise and intimidated by the notion that they shouldn’t even try to explore this industry.
Young women should not limit their career choices to fit societal norms that usually favor males. Technical professions are for everyone. However, even young girls understand that they may have to work twice as hard to be viewed as half as good as their male counterparts.
Cybersecurity has been portrayed as a field dominated by young males in hoodies in tense war rooms. Women who have expressed interest in cybersecurity are not necessarily welcomed, let alone nurtured.
Like too many fields, women are paid less and promoted infrequently. The personnel shortage is a wake-up call that women are desperately needed. Women in computer science and information technology can easily migrate to cybersecurity. Unfortunately, women are also underrepresented in these fields.
Initiatives must be adopted and adjustments must be made to move the needle. For example, adopting a diversity policy for all disciplines, genders, backgrounds, and ethnicities. Expand beyond the cybersecurity pool and welcome those on other career paths. Women from the fields of compliance, auditing, psychology, and sales have all found success in cybersecurity.
Culture must be cultivated when welcoming women. Work environments should be inclusive and include employee training to ensure it. Women’s Society of Cyberjutsu, Women in Cyber Security and Executive Women’s Forum on Information Security, Risk Management and Security are professional organizations founded to serve the needs of and promote women in cybersecurity.
Women deserve respect for the intellectual resources they bring to the cybersecurity world. Recruiters and school counselors should start looking in high schools and colleges for students with all areas of interest. Professional organizations can visit campuses to welcome students into the field from all majors. Students in high school and college should be able to speak directly to industry leaders.
Currently, 52 percent of women in cybersecurity hold advanced degrees in their area of study, while only 44 percent of men have advanced study on their resumes. Organizations like ThriveDX provide industry training and certifications to help students find their way into cybersecurity.
Women deserve all forms of support, including financial, when entering the cybersecurity field or other STEM professions. Many professional organizations offer help in the form of scholarships and grants to pay for cybersecurity boot camps.
Plenty of female role models are willing to be mentors to younger women. The role models have overcome the barriers to success. They can be found at industry conventions as keynote speakers or networking mixers. There is also a wealth of online video interviews with prominent women in the field.
Overall, STEM needs to welcome more women. As cybersecurity demands continue to increase, the rush for talent will only intensify. Government agencies, industry participants, high school and middle school educators, and colleges are now seeing women as the valuable resource they are for the cyber world.
ThriveDX welcomes learners from all walks of life who are interested in changing the world or changing their career path and stepping into cybersecurity.