The importance of breaking gender bias in cybersecurity
Cybersecurity is one of the many fields where more talent is needed; bringing more women (and diversity) to teams is the only way forward.
Demand for cybersecurity professionals is at an all-time high, growing as the number of data breaches and cybercrimes has also risen - and criminals have resorted to more complex operations.
In the United States alone, there are more than 300,000 positions unfilled in the cybersecurity sector, according to a study by Tulane University, and this number is expected to rise significantly in the coming years.
At the same time, as demand is high, supply has been low, according to Enterprise Strategy Group research. Some 70% of the organisations surveyed said they felt that a cybersecurity skills shortage had impacted their companies.
So we need more people, and we need them fast.
It's time to break the gender bias
The thing is: there are already highly qualified people that the field has been failing to attract: Women.
According to the (ISC)2 Cybersecurity Workforce Study, the women currently in the cybersecurity sector are more educated and younger.
While 44% of men in cybersecurity hold a postgraduate degree, the number of women is 52%. In addition, nearly half of female cybersecurity professionals surveyed are millennials - 45% compared to 33% of men. On the other hand, Generation X men make up a more significant percentage of the workforce, 44%, than women, 25%.
But women are only 24% of the total cybersecurity workforce - higher than a previous 2017 study, but still proof that there is an enormous potential for growth. And, as we've seen, not just the potential but the dire need for growth.
Cybersecurity needs more people; it needs more educated professionals, more diverse talent, and younger people need to join the field so that it continues growing.
How can we bring women to cybersecurity?
There are several reasons why women are kept away from a field like cybersecurity. Analysing them and fighting back is a job that could take years, but we can still understand some of the issues and take personal accountability to lower some barriers.
For example, some STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) environments are known for their toxic masculinity. We need to dismantle that, protect women, and create a safe environment by taking action with HR, but also on an individual level.
Men in the field need to become outspoken allies and demand women's representation on boards, in the workforce, and at events. Women already in cybersecurity need to be supported, and those who are able to step up and demand equal treatment should be heard and celebrated.
Speaking of equality, salaries are still lagging behind. Again, this is something that must be openly addressed and corrected.
As numerous research has shown, diversity drives up innovation, brings a better awareness of risks and opportunities to companies and is overall positive for the business and their clients. Therefore, it is past time that cybersecurity breaks the gender bias to embrace more women in the field.