Report: Women Still Underrepresented in Cybersecurity

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Women make up only 11 percent of the cybersecurity workforce, even though they tend to report higher levels of education than men, according to research published this week.

The 2017 Global Information Security Workforce Study (GISWS): Women in Cybersecurity (PDF), produced by a partnership between the Center for Cybersecurity Safety and Education, (ISC)2, and the Executive Women’s Forum, and sponsored by Frost & Sullivan, suggests there may be an easy way to meet the cybersecurity workforce supply gap, which is projected to reach 1.8 million by 2022.

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The study found that 51 percent of women in cybersecurity have a masters degree or higher, compared to only 45 percent of men. More men hold undergraduate computer and information sciences degrees, by six percent, and technical degrees, by 14 percent, but the greater contributing factor to the low number of women in the field may be discrimination.

Over half of women (51 percent) in cybersecurity say they have experienced discrimination, compared to 15 percent of men. Overt discrimination is experienced by only 19 percent of those reporting discrimination, while 87 percent experienced unconscious discrimination, and over half experienced an unexplained denial or delay in career advancement, according to the study. Also, while the study shows the pay gap has decreased significantly since 2015 among executive management positions, it found it has actually increased in non-managerial roles, from $4,310 two years ago to $5,000 in 2017.

A 2016 survey by Stratoscale showed that women hold only 12 percent of data center jobs, but that they make 17 percent more on average than their male counterparts. A January survey by Indeed showed an overall cybersecurity skills gap persisting in all ten countries considered, despite modest gains in the supply of job applicants.

The number of women employed by tech giants is higher than that in cybersecurity, but the industry has been seeking to boost diversity for years, and disturbingly common attitudes towards women in technology have been highlighted by incidents such as Gamergate.

“Companies must take swift and considerable actions to engage, develop, and retain women in the field or the global workforce gap will continue to grow year over year,” the study concludes.

“Executives should proactively determine if their organizational culture is one that welcomes and values women, or enables behaviors that intentionally or unintentionally deter women from joining and succeeding in the cybersecurity profession. Identifying and sponsoring high potential women for advancement and enrolling them in mentorship and leadership development programs increases job satisfaction and engagement as well as provides women with a sense of being valued.”

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