Women in Cybersecurity: Closing the Industry Gender Gap

As the digital world continues to become an ever-present force in both our business and personal lives, the need for cybersecurity professionals has risen in tandem. The industry has seen a 350% growth in open cybersecurity positions since 2013. The New York Times even mentioned experts who predict there will be 3.5 million unfilled roles by the year 2021.

Companies continue to voice concerns that their cybersecurity teams are understaffed. And as they struggle to find qualified employees, the industry’s gender gap proves to be a key part of the problem.

How many women work in cybersecurity?

According to research, only 11% of people employed in the cybersecurity industry are women, although experts predict this is edging closer to 20% as 2020 approaches.

Interestingly, the lack of female workers doesn’t track with current education levels and academic abilities. More women (50%) than men (45%) working in cybersecurity have earned graduate degrees, yet they hold significantly fewer positions in executive management.

Time to rebrand cybersecurity 

Some say that cybersecurity needs a facelift. One Forbes writer states “cybersecurity needs help from marketers at the most macro level. It needs a rebranding”.

Others say that top leaders need to get serious about seeing women as equals in business. The statistics prove that 51% of women experience some kind of discrimination at work, and the male-dominated industry needs to work hard to address this.

However, getting more women into cybersecurity isn’t about ticking boxes for the sake of it. Diversity matters. Priscilla Moriuchi, Director of Strategic Threat Development at Recorded Future says “Having more women in the workplace is good for business. Diversity in perspectives, leadership, and experience is good for business.”

The good news is that strides are being made to get women into cybersecurity roles, with a focus on boardroom positions. Talking in relation to a recent (ISC)² research paper, CEO David Shearer said, “Women in high-level positions will foster more inclusion and inspire young women to join the industry, and there are certainly many exciting opportunities available for those seeking to inspire a safe and secure cyber world. Diversity only makes us stronger.”

Support and opportunities for women in cybersecurity 

Change is on the horizon thanks to worldwide initiatives that are shining the light on women in tech. For example:

  • Cyber Girls First is demystifying the idea that only boys can succeed in IT by pointing out that Chief Executives of companies around the country are desperate to recruit women into their cyber departments.
  • The Crucial Academy has an initiative called Diversity in Cyber Security. This Brighton-based project looks to retrain veterans in cybersecurity, in particular focusing on women, neurodiverse candidates and BAME individuals. Successful applicants receive training including a three-week intensive cybersecurity course in a state-of-the-art virtual lab environment.
  • There is an entry-level testing course called Hands-on Hacking which offers online training. Graduates will have access to a mentor programme which helps them gain employment.
  • QA has collaborated with Women Tech Jobs to identify, train and place women in cybersecurity roles. It combines classroom and online learning and is ‘shaped by industry employers based on their required skill sets’ according to gov.uk.
  • For women looking to pivot into cybersecurity, the OGI Cyber Academy has a training programme for entry-level cybersecurity jobs, focusing on technical and non-technical disciplines. The best part is that paid employment commences before training even starts. For more information contact pgicyber@pgitl.com or contact PGI Customer Services on 0207 887 2699.

There are plenty more government cybersecurity initiatives to help women find employment, so if you’re thinking about hiring or want to be hired yourself, check out this list of resources.

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Nov 26 - 2019
Rob McBride
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