Women In Cybersecurity: Why Closing the Gender Gap Is Critical

When discussing the lack of women in technology fields, the conversation generally starts around some basic questions: What is it about tech fields that discourages women from participating, and what can people in the field do to attain a better balance of gender?

Recent findings have shown the problem is even deeper than many imagined, and various tech fields are suffering and at risk due to a lack of participation from women.  Perhaps no field is feeling this strain more than cybersecurity, and this strain has experts working overtime.

As more and more of what we do moves online, cybersecurity will become even more critical going forward. Unfortunately, there simply aren’t enough people being properly trained to meet this demand, and experts already believe there are one million unfilled cybersecurity jobs, a number projected to grow to 1.8 million by 2022.  While some of this gap could certainly be filled by persuading more men to enter the field, finding ways to encourage women to seek these jobs can go a long way toward ensuring critical gaps in talent are closed.

Dr. Roman V. Yampolskiy, a computer scientist at the University of Louisville, known for his work on behavioural biometrics, security of cyberworlds, and artificial intelligence safety believes  “cognitive diversity is extremely important in any decision-making process”.

“Most people have a bias of favoring those who think just like them, so it is important for industry leaders to explicitly look for contrarians who can take the team’s thinking to a new level. Create a culture which encourages decent, speaking out and going against established norms. Employees who are willing to speak their mind are to be cherished and promoted.”

Simple Outreach

Surveys show that young women, by and large, are likely to be interested in cybersecurity if they’re told about the field and even encouraged to give it serious consideration. A survey conducted by Kaspersky of 2,000 women aged 16 to 21 revealed that 72 percent want a career they can feel passionate about. Because 83 percent of respondents stated that they did not feel cybersecurity would be a dull field, it stands to reason that simply teaching women about the field can be enough to encourage more to pursue it. More than half of those in the survey stated that receiving a good salary is important to them, and the high salaries found in the cybersecurity field, which are only expected to grow, can serve as a strong incentive.

Diversity Affects Performance

Some people care little about diversity; what difference does it make, they ask if the field is predominantly male? However, research has consistently shown that a more diverse workforce leads to better performance. The groupthink mentality common in fields dominated by one gender can lead to a lack of insight, and fields such as cybersecurity need a broad range of viewpoints to effectively consider all possibilities. A happy workforce tends to be a better workforce, and other studies have shown more diverse office environments lead to greater satisfaction among employees. Encouraging more women to work in cybersecurity will help fill jobs, but it will also lead to better productivity across the board.

Critical Mass

One survey states that women make up only 11 percent of the cybersecurity workforce, while another pegs this number at 14 percent. Many women, particularly young women, see these numbers and feel the field is simply unaccepting. Raising this number will show women that there is a place for them in cybersecurity, and reaching critical mass can lead to a landslide of women viewing the career as a viable one for them. Being able to see oneself in role models or teachers can go a long way toward creating the workforce cybersecurity needs to survive.

According to Chuck D. Brooks, Chairman of the New and Emerging Technologies Committee at CompTIA, the gender gap “can, and should, be closed.”

“Cybersecurity does not need to be a mostly male domain. As we continue to evolve into the new digital era, new opportunities arise and the real task is outreach and effective communication to bring women into the emerging cybersecurity career realms.”

Addressing the Pay Gap

If the cybersecurity field wants greater success attracting women, one step it can take is focusing on the pay gap. Women in cybersecurity fields make less than their male counterparts, and, although this gap seems to be shrinking, the stigma can serve as a powerful barrier. Over the medium and long-term, companies can focus on providing women the training they need to climb the job ladder, and mentorships and leadership training can be great investments for companies looking to attract women.

Tackling Discrimination

According to many in the field, discrimination in cybersecurity is shockingly common. A survey conducted by Veracode and the Center for Cyber Safety and Education revealed than 15 percent of men reported experiencing discrimination on the job. Among women, this number stands at 51 percent. Even more distressing, reports of discrimination rose among women who had successfully climbed the corporate ladder, with 67 percent of C-level executives experiencing discrimination. Taking a proactive approach against discrimination will be a cornerstone of the industry closing the gender gap.

The cybersecurity field ought to be a tempting one for both men and women, as demand and salaries are projected to rise significantly. Although most men in the field would welcome and encourage women to enter the field, discrimination is still common, and many young and talented women choose to enter fields where they’re better represented. Fortunately, there are steps the industry can take to fix these problems, and some studies show measurable if small, progress. Going forward, however, the field will have no choice. In order to fill the jobs, the field will demand, reaching out to women will prove essential.

Editor’s Note: This article was first published at TechNative and subsequently at  The Digital Transformation People.

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Ludmila Morozova-Busshttps://www.linkedin.com/groups/8276746
LIKE MOST PEOPLE Ludmila's resume is something less than a straight line. In fact it resembles a long country road with many turns, which in this case, is a good thing, as it includes 20+ years of professional experience in a number of different cultures in Europe, Asia, and the Unites States of America. Equipped with an MS in Mathematics, her personal life philosophy and career shifted after two pivotal events, obtaining a Certification in "Banking and Financial Management” at the Economic Development Institute of the World Bank, Washington, DC and; her first trip to the United States of America in 1996. Sitting in the front row of her life or taking a train in the opposite direction, Ludmila lets U-turns, contrasts and detours bring her thoughts into perspective. As a world traveler the East, West and South influenced and shaped her character and her beliefs along with her professional and human qualities. Tornados and stillness of events. Heat of Tashkent and cold of Moscow. Extremes of fears and tears and joys of finding the only right decisions of Mathematical Analysis problems and looking at the eyes of her beloved children… Ludmila is a Ukrainian native, living in Berlin, Germany. As the World’s news shaker for Europe for centuries, Germany now is the center of attention again. Which is why Ludmila steps into the stream of the news – believing that the facts speak the most precisely and the most convincingly. Her promise is for us all to get to know these facts from her first-hand perspective across Germany. With no political or religious affiliation in Germany, Ludmila’s interests intersect in business strategy, education, technology, entrepreneurship, markets and the rule of law. In this series of short essays, she welcomes everyone’s perception of success.
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Jane Anderson

Ludmila, Thank you for sharing this comprehensive essay on the positive advantages of having women in technology. I have granddaughters who are intelligent and have learning mindset. I appreciate having information like this article to share with them. Your links to other articles for further study is a benefit for me and others like me who lack the knowledge of technology, but want to know about it.

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