Currently, women make up only 20% of the cyber security workforce. With the massive shortage of cyber security professionals today, up to 3.5 million job openings are expected by 2021. That means there’s a clear opportunity for women to fill both the gender and talent gaps.
“Having more women in the workplace is good for business,” Priscilla Moriuchi, Director of Strategic Threat Development at Recorded Future explains. “Diversity in perspectives, leadership and experience is good for business.”
Furthermore, she says, “We need people with disparate backgrounds because the people we are pursuing (threat actors, hackers, ‘bad guys’), also have a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences. The wider variety of people and experience we have defending our networks, the better our chances of success.”
What the cyber security field needs is capable, hard-working, knowledgeable professionals. For the pool of people pursuing this field to be narrowed based on gender is detrimental for all who are at risk of cyber threats. But the perception is that cyber security and technology in general are more masculine professions. It’s a message that is ingrained from an early age and it has a devastating effect on the field.
When men make up the majority of the field, it can cause the culture to get stuck in a perpetual cycle of unconscious bias that is subtle and pervasive.
Rose Elliott, Senior Director of Product Engineering at Tenable.io, explains that she’s noticed women have to push harder for opportunities and recognition, in part because “… people, consciously or not, tend to hire and promote people who are like them. Women shouldn’t feel intimidated, but that’s often their reality in the industry.”
The only way to change the industry is for more women to enter it and start breaking down those barriers.
5 Tips for Women Entering Cyber Security
- Don’t be intimidated, and take chances. Jessica Ortega of SiteLock says, “Taking chances and demanding respect in a male dominated field is absolutely necessary in order to gain the experience and knowledge needed to be successful.”
- Network and find mentors. “A good mentor can provide invaluable advice on how to find your place in cybersecurity and facilitate networking opportunities,” Ortega advises.
- Look for internal opportunities first. If there’s a gap that needs to be filled in your company’s security team, you might be able to combine self-teaching and on-the-job training to land yourself a new role.
- Act with confidence. Speak and act decisively, even when you don’t necessarily feel that way.
- Embrace learning. As with any career, cybersecurity is a learning journey. There’s always room to grow.
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Bradford, Laurence. (18 Oct 2018). Cybersecurity Needs Women: Here’s Why. Forbes.