New report exposes cybersecurity’s diversity problem

Enterprise efforts to encourage women into cybersecurity aren’t working

Various studies have shown that the worldwide representation of women in the field of cybersecurity varies between 8% to 11%. This has encouraged many firms to push for an open door policy to encourage more women into info-security roles. Given the growing cybersecurity skills gap, it has never been more important for businesses to attract and maintain women into these jobs.

The problem of perception is widely cited as one of the primary factors, with many opportunities in the tech sector being seen as “boys clubs”. Cybersecurity in particular is a hard field to get into, regardless of gender. Info security expertise is generally not covered by most tech degrees and certifications such as CISSP and SSCP must be studied in addition to STEM subjects. For this reason, those with more generalized degrees won’t transfer well into the field. So what’s stopping women pursuing those last few steps to becoming security savvy?

According to studies like Frost & Sullivan’s 2017 Global Information Security Workforce Study, female employment in this sector has stagnated since 2004. Although the stigma around women in the field has loosened and many companies actively encourage female candidates, the lack of interest is apparent. That fact is hardly surprising as the study also found that women were paid less than men at almost every level in the field.

The studies conducted in Europe concluded that male employees earned $10,000 per year more than their female counterparts. This type of exaggerated difference is more severe than many other professions, but discrimination isn’t limited to pay.

Personal Discrimination

It is often highlighted that a low percentage of women go into STEM fields in comparison to men. This is cited as one of the more obvious reasons fewer women are found in cybersecurity. Yet their experiences when they go into those roles may be a reason they dont stay.

Among the women who participated in the study, 51% said they had experienced some form of discrimination, which shockingly seems to get worse the higher up the ranks they rise. Twenty-eight percent of women asked found their opinions are often ignored or undervalued, potentially weakening the security posture of the firms they work for. 

Industry experts predict that by 2022 there will be a 1.8 million workforce gap in cybersecurity, making it even more pressing for organisations globally to address the issue as a priority. The report concludes with recommendations firms can take, to both proactively attract women and  to drive cultural change  in their organisations to retain them.

View the full report here.

(Infographics: Frost & Sullivan)