How Can We Increase the Number of Women in Cybersecurity?

November 15th, 2021   |     |  security and compliance, culture & news

I was asked the other day about a study that was done in Europe that found that women only make up 7% of the cybersecurity workforce in Europe and only hold 1% of senior management positions. I was curious as to when the study was done and found that it was actually done in 2017 by (ISC)2. I couldn’t find any more recent studies that focused on just female representation in cybersecurity, but I did find a more recent study by AnitaB.org that looked at female representation in tech and the numbers were better, at least 28.8% in 2020. According to the AnitaB.org study that percentage has been increasing by approximately a percentage point each year over the previous 3 years. So if we were to guestimate the percentage of females in cybersecurity based upon that growth rate, we could hope that women make up at least 11% of the cybersecurity workforce now.

Whether we are talking about almost 7% or 30%, the point is that we still aren’t at 50% representation either in general tech or specifically in cybersecurity. So how can we increase the number of women in cybersecurity? The answer, of course, is not simple. We need to address several areas:


Employers Need to Prioritize Diversity

Employers need to make a diverse workforce a high priority. As our own Senior Director of Trust and Security, Niamh Muldoon, states, “Surely a team that consists of people who have different experiences, expertise, and backgrounds is better placed to come up with innovative ideas to reach new target audiences. Building a diverse and inclusive environment supports highly performing teams allowing business to grow, scale and innovate across cybersecurity.” As a team leader have you recently assessed your own teams in terms of diversity? How diverse of a representation do you have in terms of not only gender, but also in terms of age, nationality, even professional backgrounds?

How inclusive is your organization? Do you offer internships, mentorship programs or any sort of training to provide a path to a career in cybersecurity? How are you encouraging women to enter the cybersecurity sector of the workforce?

What about Educational Institutions?

Educational institutions have put a lot of time and effort into increasing STEM education for women. In fact, the percentage of women in social science fields was at 63% in 2019. According to this same study, representation of women in mathematics and biological science fields are almost at 50%. So why aren’t women reaching those percentages in tech or cybersecurity?

What types of courses are they providing? Do they have clearly designed learning tracks that focus on cybersecurity? Are they working on partnerships with any cybersecurity focused companies to provide internship opportunities or even simply female cybersecurity guest lecturers so that students can see women who work in the field?

Need More Visible Role Models

Cybersecurity is a relatively new field and provides an open opportunity for those who want to be part of building something new. Women who are willing to take on this challenge are more likely to enter this field and forge ahead no matter what comes their way. Most women who work in cybersecurity today did not directly enter the field. Most were working in general tech and saw an opportunity to forge a new path into cybersecurity and followed that path. They are the role models of today. They are the ones that girls and young women need to hear from and see. These younger women need to see that there is a path open to them. They need to know that there are workplaces that they will be welcomed into. They need to know what is possible.

There will most likely not be a huge explosion of women entering the cybersecurity field. Change takes time. Medical schools that perhaps had only 13% of their student body represented by women back in the 1960s now have a student body that is over 50% women. Equal representation is not impossible. Our own Security Department at OneLogin is 50% female. This percentage includes our CISO, Vanessa Pegueros. If we all work together — employers, educators, current cybersecurity experts — we can increase diversity in cybersecurity and all reap the benefits.

Alicia Townsend, Dir. of Content and Documentation
About the Author

For almost 40 years, Alicia Townsend has been working with technology as both a consultant and a trainer. She has a passion for empowering others to use technology to make their lives easier. As Director of Content and Documentation at OneLogin, Ms. Townsend works with technical writers, trainers and content marketing writers to inspire and empower everyone to take advantage of what OneLogin’s platform has to offer them.

View all posts by Alicia Townsend

Alicia Townsend, Dir. of Content and Documentation
About the Author

For almost 40 years, Alicia Townsend has been working with technology as both a consultant and a trainer. She has a passion for empowering others to use technology to make their lives easier. As Director of Content and Documentation at OneLogin, Ms. Townsend works with technical writers, trainers and content marketing writers to inspire and empower everyone to take advantage of what OneLogin’s platform has to offer them.

View all posts by Alicia Townsend

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