While the number of women in cybersecurity has nearly doubled since 2013, it is still low when compared to other functions in the workplace.The cybersecurity industry needs to continue pushing for more women in the workplace.
According to Forrester, the industry is projecting a staffing shortage of 1.8 million unfulfilled jobs by 2022, but only 11% of the global workforce are women. Men represent 90% of CISOs in the Fortune 500. Men also make more money than their female counterparts at every level in cybersecurity. The lack of gender diversity and equality in the security industry indicates that initiatives need to be taken to change the direction of the cyber security industry.
With the number of cyberattacks continuing to grow, organizations are investing more heavily to improve their cybersecurity posture. This means there is an ever-increasing need for educated and talented cybersecurity professionals to help organizations stay safe in today’s threat environment. Career opportunities are available for women, but organizations need to hire, retain, and promote more women to make it happen.
Here are four ways organizations can attract more women to the cybersecurity industry and empower them to grow in their careers:
#1. Increase cyber security job awareness early
Many women don’t consider a career in cyber security because they are unaware it’s an option. Most women who entered cybersecurity were working in other fields before, such as tech, and later saw an opportunity to forge a new career path for themselves and took it. These are the type of role models that girls and young women need to hear about – if they see someone like these women in cybersecurity, they are more likely to feel they can take on these roles too. Educators, professional organizations, and employers need to work together to show these young women they are welcome in the workplace and teach them about the career opportunities available to them in cyber security. Academic institutions can create course curriculums that focus on cybersecurity, employers can build partnerships with educators to provide internship opportunities, and professional organizations can arrange guest speaker lectures so that students can gain exposure to women professionals in the security field.
#2. Change your recruiting strategy
Universities that offer STEM programs can be great places to find women candidates for cyber security roles. Security employers can build partnerships with universities to offer internship programs and sponsor events with women guest speakers so young women can gain exposure to the industry. But employers should also be open to extending their search beyond traditional STEM backgrounds. There is a misconception that all cyber security roles are highly technical, but careers in cybersecurity require a variety of skill sets. Plenty of women candidates have strong transferable skills, such as communication, creativity, and work ethic, that are just as valuable as technical and risk management skills. Women with these skills can develop security technical skills through training and hands-on experience, but people skills can’t always be taught. Lastly, employers should change the narrative around the cyber security industry when speaking to women candidates.They should echo that a cybersecurity career is an opportunity to make an impact in an innovative industry and take on a new challenge. At Balbix, we run a successful internship program every year and we invariably end up finding great candidates – men and women.
#3. Seek internal talent
The vast number of unfulfilled cybersecurity jobs has increased the competition between organizations for external talent. Consider identifying internal candidates within the firm who are seeking a career change and have the required skills to solve security problems. Giving women within your organization an opportunity to progress in a new role will show them they are valued in the workplace and increase retention rates among female employees. Security organizations should also consider setting up mentorship programs to encourage their staff to mentor women both within and outside their organization. Such partnerships can provide opportunities for professionals to discuss career paths and set career goals. Plus, building relationships will broaden an organization’s network and expose them to qualified female candidates to hire for cyber security roles.
#4. Build diverse workplaces
For cyber security organizations to retain and attract more women candidates, they need to foster an inclusive-minded culture where women feel challenged, respected, and are treated equally to men. To do so, they can invest in unconscious bias and diversity training for their staff to increase awareness and create a culture of inclusion. Cultural improvements can be made by educating leaders about the importance of inclusivity, implementing diverse hiring processes, and fostering collaboration among diverse staff to create an enriching environment for all employees. When organizations invest in building a more inclusive and diverse workplace, they reap the rewards in a strong culture, improved employee performance, and reduce turnover. Moreover, if an organization has a reputation for building inclusive environments, women are more likely to apply for a position.
Diverse workplaces are crucial to the future of cybersecurity: they bring together a wide variety of people with different skills and perspectives which leads to more creativity and innovation and faster problem-solving. I hope these suggestions prove helpful to organizations open to amping up women power in cybersecurity.