As technology plays an increasingly prominent role in today’s world, so does the need for skilled professionals who can protect sensitive information, prevent cyber attacks and ensure the safety of our digital assets. According to Astra, a hacker attempts a cyber attack every 39 seconds. Unfortunately, we lack information security professionals who can help prevent these attacks. In fact, in 2022, there were estimated to be 3.4 million unfilled cybersecurity positions.
With growing concerns about the availability of future professionals in this field, perhaps now is the perfect time to invite more women to step into this arena. Women have the opportunity to help bridge the talent gap and the gender gap in this growing industry.
Benefits of a Diversified Cybersecurity Workforce
Despite movements for equality in recent years, women are still underrepresented in this essential field. The International Cybersecurity Membership Organization states that only 24% of the cybersecurity workforce are women. By pursuing a career in cybersecurity, women have the opportunity to diversify the field and bring new perspectives to the table.
Diversity in the workplace has many benefits, such as:
- Improved Creativity and Innovation
When a team is made of individuals from different backgrounds, they bring different perspectives, experiences and ways of thinking to the table. This wide range of thought tends to result in more creative problem-solving and innovative ideas.
- More Informed Decision-Making
Diverse teams tend to make better decisions. With a wide range of viewpoints and experiences, a team is more likely to consider all possible options and potential consequences before making choices. This can lead to more well-rounded and informed decisions.
- Larger Talent Pool
Embracing diversity can attract a wider pool of qualified candidates during the recruitment process. Companies that prioritize diversity are seen as inclusive and forward-thinking, making them more appealing to diverse job seekers.
Jana Richens on the Challenges for Women in Cybersecurity
One of the primary hurdles women face is the persistence of stereotypes and misconceptions surrounding the field of cybersecurity. An article by Exploding Topics states that men hold 73.3% of tech-related positions. To counter these norms, it is necessary to highlight the many roles within cybersecurity and question preconceived ideas about who can excel in this realm.
Founder of Women in Cybersecurity (WiCys) Idaho chapter, Jana Richens writes about her experience as a woman in cybersecurity, saying:
“When I first entered the field, I encountered a significant lack of representation and often felt I had to prove myself more than my male colleagues. There were instances where my ideas were dismissed or overlooked simply because of my gender. Additionally, I encountered subtle (and not so subtle) biases and stereotypes that questioned my technical abilities solely based on being a woman. It took me many years to overcome these challenges, but I am determined to succeed in the cybersecurity industry. I remain focused on building my skills and knowledge to become a trusted resource in my field. Success comes from believing in oneself and seeking support from mentors and supportive peers, both male and female, who believe in your capabilities and can offer guidance.”
This need for inclusivity and awareness surrounding equality for women in the workplace motivated Richens to found the Idaho chapter of WiCys. She is committed to being a part of the change that she wishes to see. “Our hope is to grow a local community of women role models, experts and talent in cybersecurity while providing a platform to share knowledge, resources and activities to anyone interested in cybersecurity.”
Another issue contributing to the gender gap in cybersecurity is the lack of visible female role models. Marian Wright Edelman once said, “You can’t be what you can’t see”. The absence of empowered women and leaders in the industry can make it difficult for young women to envision themselves succeeding in similar roles. Establishing mentorship programs, highlighting successful women in cybersecurity and offering platforms for sharing experiences can create a more supportive environment for aspiring female professionals.
Boise State’s Cyber Programs Are Committed to Student Success
The cyber operations and resilience program at Boise State University is committed to seeing women succeed in cybersecurity through valuable access to women role models, not only as teachers but also as classmates.
Men and all people have an essential role to play in the mission to close the gender gap in STEM fields. While it sounds simple, awareness is the first place to start. Take the time to learn about the challenges and barriers women often face in the tech industry. Understanding the gender disparities in the field and educating yourself about unconscious bias, stereotyping and other issues. Actively promote an inclusive culture by advocating for diverse hiring practices and supporting women pursuing tech careers. Through these efforts, we can help create an environment where women’s talents are fully recognized and utilized, leading to a more inclusive future.
Resources for Women in the Cyber Field
Networking plays an important role in professional growth, but it can also offer an empowering environment for women. Attending women-focused networking events, conferences and online communities can provide a platform for building relationships, sharing knowledge and gaining exposure to new opportunities. Two organizations dedicated to supporting women in cybersecurity are the International Consortium of Minority Cybersecurity Professionals (ICMCP) and Women in Cybersecurity (WiCyS).
Mentorship can also make all the difference for women contemplating a career in cybersecurity. Finding a mentor who has navigated similar challenges can encourage women to overcome obstacles. To find mentors, look for opportunities within your workplace, university, industry events or online communities. Their insights can help you make informed decisions, set goals and build confidence.
There are also educational initiatives focused on encouraging women to pursue cybersecurity careers. Scholarships, workshops and training programs bridge the gender gap in this field. These opportunities can help you strengthen your skills and become a valuable asset.
Paving a Career Path
As a woman, advocating for your growth and advancement can be uncomfortable, but by doing so, you are setting a powerful example for other women to follow in your footsteps. Communicate your goals, aspirations and areas where you need support to your supervisors, colleagues and mentors. Being vocal about your needs can lead to opportunities for skill development, challenging projects and career progression.
For women who have already established a career in cybersecurity, consider becoming a mentor to others. Paying it forward by sharing your experiences, insights and advice can significantly impact aspiring professionals. By becoming a role model, you contribute to the growth and success of future generations of women in cybersecurity.
Cybersecurity is at a crucial point with a high demand for skilled professionals. Advocating to increase the representation of women in the industry unlocks diverse talent and perspectives. This drives innovation, enhances security strategies and fosters a more inclusive digital landscape. It’s time to break down barriers, challenge stereotypes and empower women to play a significant role in shaping the future of cybersecurity. The time for change is now, and together, we can build a safer and more resilient digital world for all.