Can Closing the Cybersecurity Gender Gap Close Its Skills Gap, Too?

A new study from InfoSec Institute shows that the high-tech cybersecurity industry is behind the times when it comes to gender equality — could sustained efforts to close the gender pay gap also close the industry’s widening skills gap?

In the cybersecurity world, it’s lonely at the top. A recent study from insurance underwriting firm Hiscox measured organizations’ cyber security readiness, dividing companies into “cyber novices,” “cyber intermediates,” and “cyber experts,” finding that while 73% fell into the “novice” category, only 11% were “experts.”

This study confirms what many companies have known for years: there’s a cybersecurity skills gap in the United States. But what fewer firms seem to consider is the idea that this gap might have something to do with the industry’s inability to tap into an entire 50% of the population.

While women make up 47% of the workforce nationwide, a recent InfoSec report notes that they only occupy 11% of cybersecurity positions — and studies show that cybersecurity is missing out on more than just sheer numbers by failing to recruit women into the field.

The Cybersecurity Gender Gap

According to research from Catalyst, companies with more women in the C-Suite average a 34% higher return to shareholders. A study from Credit Suisse echoes this finding, showing that large companies with at least one woman on their board outperform similar companies with no female leadership by 26%. Clearly, there are tangible benefits to having women leaders in the workplace — yet cybersecurity’s gender gap remains shockingly large.

The factors leading to this gender disparity are present before women even join the workforce. A 2017 study from Kaspersky Labs found that most young women in the United States, Israel, and Europe have already decided against a career in cybersecurity before they turn 16. The study found that terms like “hacker” carry a negative connotation, and a third of girls view cybersecurity professionals as “nerds.” 78% of young women never consider a career in cybersecurity, and 77% say that no high school teacher or guidance counselor ever presented cybersecurity to them as a viable career path.

What’s worse, the 11% of women who do make it into the cybersecurity field are often made to feel uncomfortable and undervalued there. The 2017 Global Information Security Workforce Study found that 51% of female information security workers experience multiple forms of discrimination on the job, and another 28% reported that their opinions were not valued by their organizations. Further, men in cybersecurity are nine times more likely to be promoted to managerial positions and four times more likely to make it into the C-Suite.

The Cybersecurity Skills Gap

The Hiscox study confirms that the field of cybersecurity is already greatly lacking highly-trained experts, but some sources predict a shortage of two million cybersecurity professionals of all experience levels by as soon as 2019. 53% of organizations experience delays as long as six months to find qualified security candidates. And while qualified professionals in many other industries struggle to find job openings, cybersecurity is experiencing the opposite problem.

Though the skills shortage clearly represents a problem for the cybersecurity industry, it also represents positive growth on the horizon. As more young students realize the industry’s employment and earning potential — especially women, who stand to make three times the average salary of women in other fields — the tides are bound to turn in favor of a more egalitarian cybersecurity sector. However, if cybersecurity continues to fail to tap into half of the employment market, the problem will only worsen.

Cybersecurity must become a more welcoming field for women in order to recruit and retain the top talent that it needs. For some organizations, this means big-picture efforts like instituting programs aimed at increasing diversity and closing pay gaps. For smaller companies, this may mean taking action at a more granular level — such as ensuring that women are on the interviewing panel when screening female candidates, for example.

Filling the Skills Gap in the Meantime

Although many organizations are making concerted efforts to recruit more women, the cybersecurity industry still has a long way to go before it can close the skills gap. In the meantime, companies are left vulnerable to an ever-increasing number of cybersecurity threats.

Outsourcing to experts like those at Turn-key Technologies is a good solution to protect your company from cybercrime while the industry races to catch up. With decades of experience, we have the expertise to ensure that your network isn’t vulnerable to attack. And we’re always looking to recruit top talent in the fields of IT communications, and security, regardless of gender.

If your organization is one of the 89% of companies that aren’t “cyber experts,” partner with a company that is. With a multitude of certifications and proven solutions, we have what it takes to keep your network safe.

By Craig Badrick


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