It has been an age-old myth that women prioritize family over work. Women are under-represented in tech and leadership. According to an (ISC)² Cybersecurity Workforce Report, women working in cybersecurity account for about one quarter (24%) of the overall workforce. Though there’s a continuing inequity, things have begun to look brighter. Workforces – especially post-COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown – have been offering flexibility in timings, empowering women to lead, and showing support through digital mediums. Change happens with time, but it requires consistency. There is a need to go beyond the 24%.
Let’s hear what Julie Beck, Information Security Analyst, Homestar Financial Corp., Georgia, has to say about Women in Cybersecurity:
Less representation of women: I don’t think this is a “one size fits all” answer. I believe there are numerous reasons for different people.
One would be the cost of investing in education. Had I not had my company paying for my education and the scholarships I received, I would not have been able to afford the tuition as a single mom. The same goes for the cost of certification classes and certifications.
When I grew up, I was still a part of the generation who was told that women were not good in Science and Math. I still think we have a generation who is being taught this, but it is improving with STEM classes in our schools.
Then I believe that there are women who are intimidated to work in a male dominant industry. I will say that I’ve met few “bad apples,” but for the most part, men counterparts have been very supportive and accepting women into conferences and this industry.
Lack of women role models: I feel the dearth of women role models has lessened over the years. I do feel like there is still a slight dearth. I think it is more about getting to know the women in the field. I think that the women in this industry need to be more outspoken and stand up to be seen and heard so other women know we are here. In the years I was developing an interest in this field, one of my instructors was a woman. She had a passion for the material and presented herself in a way I admired and wanted to be like her. Having this role model gave me someone to look up to and to know that it is possible for women to be successful in this industry.
Cybersecurity scholarships for women: Yes! I absolutely feel that scholarships for women are important! For me, as a single mom, I prioritized spending money for my family and felt guilty for spending money to invest in myself. Programs like IBM’s, which paid for admittance to Hacker Halted, are needed. Scholarships for women are needed to help them get in and get interested. Once I landed a job in cyber, I was fortunate enough that my work would reimburse these costs. I still had to have the money or the credit to invest upfront many times though. Many women who have yet to enter the field do not have this luxury of getting reimbursed. We must alleviate the burden and financial strain to enter the industry.
What can men do? In my experience, I have had men mentor me and encourage me along my path. I feel it is important to not only have women role models but men who are accepting and encouraging. My mentor saw potential in me and invested in me. He encouraged me to take training and took the time to speak words of encouragement to me. Having someone from the opposite sex tell you in a professional manner that you have what it takes helped me from getting discouraged and prevented me from quitting numerous times.
Views expressed in this article are personal.
CISO MAG’s March issue on Women in Cybersecurity is out. Preview here. Subscribe now!