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 Heather Bentley, Senior Vice President – Customer Success and Support, Mimecast, has to say about Women in Cybersecurity:
On the gender gap: I think reaching out to young women is important to help them understand that they can have a great career in cybersecurity. As more and more of our lives rely on technology, this is a field that isn’t going to go away. I’m surprised that many young people are unaware of this opportunity. As a community, we need to do a better job of highlighting the different opportunities and roles that are available in the cybersecurity sector. You don’t have to be a programmer to hunt the bad guys! Also, we should show how exciting and how much fun the cybersecurity industry is to young people. There are not many industries that offer that many opportunities and new challenges to learn, develop new skills, and grow your career.
Better hiring practices for women: Businesses need to make sure they have a diverse pool of candidates. For many roles, there are few, if any, women candidates. I am a strong advocate of giving people opportunity. Not all roles require you to be a technical expert on day one. With the cybersecurity skills gap we see, there has never been a better time to invest in training academies and provide hard workers the ability to gain new skills. For women especially, businesses need to be flexible. As COVID-19 has shown us, it is possible to be successful and work from home. With the balance many women have between their families and their careers, moving away from a traditional 9 to 5 office environment is key. Let’s embrace this, provide flexibility, and get a more diverse workforce as a result.
Training and mentorship for women: Training and mentorship programs are the best opportunities we have to get more women into cybersecurity. It’s important for women to see other women being successful. I do a lot of outreach in schools and I’m surprised how many young female pupils will say “computers are for boys.” We must move beyond this thinking. There is so much opportunity now and in the future in this industry. We need to make sure young women are welcomed and supported. Many women in cybersecurity will tell you, they are often the only woman in a meeting. I am starting to see that change, but more needs to be done to continue to develop and support female leaders in this space.
Views expressed in this article are personal.
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