Many women suffer from multiple challenges in the workforce. From sexual harassment to inequality, women are constantly struggling to find their place. They rarely feel comfortable, respected and valued in the workplace. The cyber security industry is no different, as women are compelled to be much more accomplished than men for their rights of equality. These challenges are what gives people the misconception that cyber security is not an ideal industry for women.
The delusion that cyber security is a male exclusive domain roots from the societal stereotype that Computer Science and Information Technology are subjects better suited for boys than girls, leaning girls away from technical professions. This stereotype was embedded into young girls despite the fact that they scored just as well (or sometimes better) in these subjects as boys did. Societal notions continue to influence teenage girls to form opinions about their place in the world that greatly limit their career choices in the future.
With the media’s focus on positive changes and the inclusion of women in multiple industries, females have taken the initiative to defy gender norms and put an end to such stereotypes. The 2017 Global Information Security Workforce Study showed that women represent about 50% of the global population but only 11% of the cybersecurity workforce, despite having higher levels of education than men overall. The study by Frost and Sullivan stated that women in North America represent a mere 14% of the total cybersecurity workforce, while in Europe, it is up to 7% and in the Middle East, it touches up to only 5%.
However, it should be noted that there are more women in the cyber security industry than one might think. The (ISC)2 Workforce Report claims that 52% of women hold advanced degrees in cyber security compared to 44% in men. The report also states that 1 in 4 people are women across the cyber security workforce. The numbers are perpetually increasing as the 2017 (ISC)2 Workforce Report said 11% of the global information security workforce is female, whereas the number stated in the 2019 report increased to 24%.
With the rise of women in cyber security, it should be noted that women are actually better in some aspects of cyber security than men. A study by NordPass showed that 43% of women always use a unique password for online store accounts, 57% for banks and other financial institutions. Half have unique passwords for personal email and 38% for communication apps. In comparison, just 36% of men use unique passwords for online stores, half for bank and other financial accounts, 42% for personal email and 31% for communication apps. It has also been proven that women spot changing patterns of behaviour easily, especially when something doesn’t intuitively feel right. They tend not to fall for attacks that are being created just for men, and being compliant with rules, they’ve been found to embrace organisational controls and technology much more than men.
Shannon Lietz, DevSecOps, leader of Intuit says:
“Cybersecurity is an art of problem-solving, and you need a lot of people looking at that problem from different points of view to arrive at a really comprehensive solution. Currently, there’s an incredible dearth of women globally who could participate.”
As the number of women in cyber security continues to rise, the future generation of young girls should also be encouraged to pursue this field. Today, there are many organisations in cyber security that promote women in the industry including Women’s Society of Cyberjutsu (WSC), Women in Cyber Security (WiCyS), and Executive Women’s Forum on Information Security, Risk Management and Security (EWF). They also conduct annual conventions to get members together to discuss women’s issues in cyber security, as well as topics impacting the industry as a whole.
Furthermore, the Girl Scouts of America has begun offering a cyber security merit badge to incentivize young girls to expose themselves to and excel at cyber security. The Girl Scouts Research Institute published a report in 2019 called “Decoding the Digital Girl: Defining and Supporting Girls’ Digital Leadership.” It discusses how girls are using their digital experiences to improve their lives, their communities, and the world.
Therefore, it is evident that cyber security is not a male exclusive domain. As the years go by, more women are entering the cyber security workforce, reducing the gender gap greatly. In order to maintain the rise of women in the industry, it is vital that societal stereotypes are abolished and girls are encouraged to pursue their higher education in this field.