Women in Cybersecurity No Longer an ‘Anomaly’

Truth be told, there are many women in cybersecurity who are tired of talking about women in the industry as if they are anomalies. For many female professionals, it’s far past the time for the narrative to change. Rather than be seen as a token representative of their sex, these cybersecurity professionals want to be (and in most cases are) respected for the quality of their work.

Indeed, it does seem that the pendulum is shifting. According to the numbers, women are  holding more positions across all sectors of the cybersecurity industry at an ever-growing rate. In March, Cybersecurity Ventures predicted that women will represent more than 20% of the global cybersecurity workforce by the end of 2019, yet recent research from (ISC)2 reported that women already accounted for 24% of the cybersecurity workforce.

That number stayed stagnant at a mere 11% for the better part of the last decade. But, in the words of Bob Dylan, “The times, they are a changin’.”

Arguably, it’s becoming easier to find a surplus of women to write about in stories such as 100 Fascinating Women Fighting Cybercrime.” These are the women who have, in large part, paved the way for today’s young women—who, according to the (ISC)2 research, are young, educated and ready to take charge.

The Women in Cybersecurity report revealed that women in the industry are uniquely poised to reach leadership roles in higher percentages than their male counterparts. “Even though men outnumber women in cybersecurity by 3 to 1, more women are joining the field—and they are gunning for leadership positions,” according to the report.

Redefining ‘Women’s Work’

Not only are women more highly educated than their male counterparts, but they also hold more certifications, according to the report.

“While 44% of men in cybersecurity hold a postgraduate degree, the number of women is 52%,” the report noted. “By placing more emphasis on education and certification, women cybersecurity workers may be forging a path to career advancement and earning the qualifications to fill leadership roles. With this leadership comes more responsibility and credibility among peers, as well as a boost in salary.”

In fact, the survey found that more women hold high-level management positions than do men, particularly in the roles of chief technology officer (7% women, 2% men), vice president of IT (9% women, 5% men) and C-level/executive (28% women, 19% men).

Still Room for Growth

While women and men tend to do the same work, they aren’t equally compensated for their time and efforts. The report found that, on average, women in managerial positions are earning about $5,000 less than their male counterparts.

When asked about the types of tasks they are assigned, though, the duties of these men and women are nearly identical. The results of the survey yielded only a slight discrepancy in the number of male and female respondents who are responsible for security threat detection and remediation, data security, network security architecture, security consulting and securing cloud environments.

The challenges that cybersecurity teams face, whether comprised of men or women, are all too familiar: low security awareness among end users, inadequate funding, lack of highly skilled professionals and a lack of management support or awareness.

“In these areas, the gap between women and men is never that wide. For instance, the gap in the level of concern related to employers not listening to their input is only 2% (16% of women vs. 18% of men). And when it comes to concern over lack of work-life balance, again, the gap is a mere 2% (28% of women vs. 26% of men),” the report said.

As more women in the workforce succeed, though, they will serve as role models for other women to join the ranks, the report asserted. “This will make the workforce more diverse, and as a result more innovative and better able to solve problems, and help address the cybersecurity skills gap. In order to build strong, adequately staffed cybersecurity teams, employers—and the cybersecurity profession as a whole—must make cybersecurity a rewarding and welcoming career for everyone.”

Kacy Zurkus

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Kacy Zurkus

Prior to joining RSA Conference as a Content Strategist, Kacy Zurkus was a cybersecurity and InfoSec freelance writer as well as a content producer for Reed Exhibition's security portfolio. Zurkus was a regular contributor to Dark Reading, Infosecurity Magazine, Security Boulevard and IBM's Security Intelligence. She has also contributed to several industry publications, including CSO Online, The Parallax, and K12 Tech Decisions. During her time as a journalist, she covered a variety of security and risk topics and also spoke on a range of cybersecurity topics at conferences and universities, including Secure World and NICE K12 Cybersecurity in Education. Zurkus has nearly 20 years experience as a high school teacher on English and holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Lesley University (2011). She earned a Master's in Education from University of Massachusetts (1999) and a BA in English from Regis College (1996). In addition, she's also spoken on a range of cybersecurity topics at conferences and universities, including SecureWorld Denver and the University of Southern California.

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