The changing role of women in cybersecurity

women in cybersecurity

Today's International Women's Day presents an opportunity to look at the role of women in cybersecurity and get the views of some of the leading women in the sector.

As we reported last week women in the cybersecurity industry think that it could take a decade to gain equality.

Comenting on this Rosa Lear, vice president, marketing at Theta Lake says:

The idea that it will take another ten years for women to create an equal playing field in cybersecurity is a cause of concern and deserves some unpacking. There is much work to be done on both sides of the gender divide to enable an 'equal' playing field in this industry, but also a mutual understanding that it is not the responsibility of one versus the other.

First, we must determine if and where a gap exists and then determine how we close that gap. Is it a lack of opportunity that prevents women from entering the field, or is it a lack of the volume of candidates who want to be part of the field?

I know that for me, as a woman, there hasn't been a lot of representation in the industry. Industry experts, hiring managers, conference speakers, analysts, have been predominantly men -- representation matters. Women shouldn't have to depend on sheer will and working two, three, four times as hard to succeed. Let's open the doors of opportunity and watch the world change.

There is, however, belief that the industry is moving in the right direction. "I have been in the cybersecurity industry for over a decade, during which I have seen the industry experience a radical shift," says Ralitsa Miteva, fraud detection and prevention solutions manager at OneSpan. "Women are continuing to forge ahead and fill critical cybersecurity roles like fraud analysts. These women are making their mark by opening doors for the younger generation as they continue to close the gender gap of male-dominated industries. I look forward to the day where a woman will be looked at as an industry expert instead of a 'woman in cybersecurity or tech'."

New research from Tessian reveals that the COVID-19 pandemic has boosted the careers of women in cyber security. Nearly half (49 percent) of over 200 women cybersecurity professionals interviewed in the US and UK say Covid-19 has had a positive impact on their career, with just nine percent saying the pandemic negatively impacted their job. In addition, 89 percent of women working in cybersecurity say they feel secure in their jobs.

When female cybersecurity professionals were asked what would encourage more women into cybersecurity roles, equal pay tops the list with 47 percent of the global respondents saying this would help bridge the gender gap. This is especially true in the US with 73 percent of respondents citing equal pay as necessary. It was closely followed by more female diverse models (44 percent), a gender-balanced workforce (43 percent) and a greater emphasis on STEM subjects in schools (41 percent).

"The women in our report have spoken; cybersecurity is an industry to build a thriving career, even in a global pandemic, and the younger generation recognizes that it's important. So now, we need to show more women and girls how they can explore the opportunities available to them," says Sabrina Castiglione, Tessian's chief financial officer and acting head of talent. "Greater awareness in schools is critical but businesses, too, can help build a more diverse talent pool for the future through initiatives like hiring more diverse candidates at junior levels and developing them into senior roles, and creating platforms for role models to share their stories. We won’t solve the gender gap overnight. But acting now and playing the long game will have enormous benefits -- both for businesses and society."

Meanwhile, Google Cloud has also announced today a global $25 million Impact Challenge for Women and Girls. This is not aimed directly at cybersecurity, but the Challenge will provide funding, mentoring from Googlers, ad grants and additional support to non-profits and social enterprises around the world working to advance the economic empowerment of women and girls.

Pip White, managing director UK and Ireland at Google Cloud says:

The theme of this year's International Women's Day is #ChooseToChallenge, a theme that calls for us all to choose to challenge and call out gender bias and inequality, and choose to seek out and celebrate women's achievements. And while days like these shine a brighter light on important issues, they're issues that need to be front of mind throughout the year. The challenge is, opening our minds feels uncomfortable. That's why days like these are an important check in.

While there has been progress in the last few years, we're still a way off where we need to be. Everyone needs to keep learning and continue striving to support diversity, equity and inclusion. Equality needs to be top of the agenda and driven by C-suite professionals themselves.

Image credit: DmitryPoch/

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