As the number of cyberattacks increases, the need for qualified cybersecurity professionals becomes more pressing. Yet the field remains largely male-dominated. According to a 2022 joint study by the Global Cybersecurity Forum (GCF) and Boston Consulting Group (BGC), women make up only a quarter of the cybersecurity workforce.
The recently published report, titled “Empowering Women in Cybersecurity Is a Win-Win,” is based on a global survey of 2,000 female undergraduate students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) from 26 countries across six regions, along with interviews with 20 international subject matter experts.
The Importance of Closing the Cybersecurity Gender Gap
While men have always outnumbered women in many professions, the gap is especially pronounced in cybersecurity.
The lack of diversity among cybersecurity professionals has consequences for individual organizations and the profession as a whole.
For one, it can lead to an less welcoming environment for women and other underrepresented groups. This creates a self-perpetuating cycle in which fewer women enter the field, leading to an even smaller pool of potential recruits.
Leila Hoteit, a Boston Consulting Group (BGC) managing director and senior partner, says that closing the cybersecurity gender gap would solve an urgent demand in the field.
Companies are desperate for more workers, especially in regions where the shortfall in cybersecurity is critical. Latin America has 402,000 vacancies, while the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region needs whopping 1.4 million cybersecurity professionals to fill the gaps.
Still, the bitter truth is the tech world is still a man’s world. Gender stereotypes continue to perpetuate. These set the stage for prejudice and discrimination discouraging women from pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).
McKinsey research shows that women get fewer opportunities in tech, are less likely to win promotions, and many feel they need to work harder than their male coworkers to prove their worth.
While it’s true that women often get overlooked in tech, it’s important to remember that women aren’t limited by anything. There are many successful and highly skilled women in every field. Women in tech have the necessary skills to get the job done.
“The results of [our] report have shown that women are ready and prepared to fill the talent gap in the cybersecurity workforce,” said Alaa M. Alfaadhel, the Initiatives & Partnerships Lead at Global Cybersecurity Forum (GCF).
The report also highlights how bringing diverse perspectives strengthens an organization’s cyber resilience and improves business performance.
Businesses with a more diverse workforce can better identify potential security threats. This is because people from different backgrounds often have different perspectives on problems and can offer unique solutions.
Steps to Take to Improve Resilience
Organizations are looking for ways to improve their resilience in the face of increasing cyber threats. One way to do this is to close the gender gap in cybersecurity. Phil Cookson, tech recruiter, and director at Creative Resource, identified key steps organizations could take to improve their resilience by closing the cybersecurity gender gap:
1. Understand the Level of Gender Diversity in Your Company
It’s a good idea to start by considering the degree of gender diversity in your company and determine whether there is potential for improvement.
Develop a strategy to entice more women to cybersecurity jobs inside your organization by talking with your staff about how they feel about the working environment, the corporate culture, and how they think things could be better.
Additionally, any stereotyped behavior on your present team has to be investigated and dealt with.
2. Offer Coaching and Mentoring
Many companies are losing women in tech roles due to a lack of coaching, mentorship, and professional growth opportunities.
The lack of female tech executives is another reason businesses struggle to entice women to tech professions. Offering coaching and development to advance women into more senior or management roles will not only serve to increase the number of leading women in the sector but also help to keep current workers and draw in new female employees.
3. Partner with Higher Education and Other Institutions
Many younger women studying at university, college, and specialized programs are unaware that their skills could lead to a career in technology.
These women might better grasp the range of positions available to them while pursuing a career in technology by fostering stronger collaboration between businesses and academic institutions.
To increase awareness and nudge younger women toward tech after graduation, consider giving guest lecturers, offering job experience, or even a full-time paid placement for a year.
4. Don’t Focus All Your Efforts on Young Women
While encouraging younger women is important, recruiting women returning to work after a professional hiatus is also essential. They should be able to return to work knowing they would be supported and able to further their careers.
Some more mature women also choose to shift their career path and bring years of previous skills and experience that might benefit your company.
5. Consider the Way Your Advertise Tech Roles
According to Hewlett Packard research, males are more likely to apply for jobs when they match 60% of the requirements, but women will only apply if they are confident they can satisfy 100% of them. This way of thinking discourages many women from seeking positions in technology, providing an unrealistic perception of working in the tech and cybersecurity industry.
The number of women who apply to your job ads is significantly affected by how you market your tech and cybersecurity positions. Simple adjustments could stop highly qualified women from being discouraged from applying for their roles.
Improving resilience in the face of cyberattacks requires collective effort and engagement from individuals at all levels within an organization. Women are not only underrepresented in the field, but they also face unique challenges and barriers to success.
By helping to close the gender gap in cybersecurity, your organization will not only be able to attract and retain top talent but also benefit from improved resiliency against future cyber-attacks.
Are you looking to create a more diverse workforce in your organization?
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