A study conducted by the National Center for Women and Information Technology (NCWIT) has discovered that only one quarter of jobs in the field of computing are held by women. The fraction occupied by women in cybersecurity is even smaller. However, by the year 2019, the overall number of professionals working in cybersecurity is expected to increase by six million across the globe. Young women should look to pursue a career in cybersecurity to take advantage of this phenomenal growth.
Highlight Encouraging Developments
Although those figures are promising, there is still a long way to go before women are fairly represented in the world of cybersecurity. To help bridge this gap, a number of companies are seen taking several efforts to encourage inclusivity and diversity in their establishments. One of the greatest shifts taking place is within technology conferences. Thankfully, long gone are the days of ‘booth babes’: women hired to go to technology conferences to entice people to visit the company’s booth. Many tech conferences are implementing quality initiatives to make sure that women are represented as speakers and panel members, not sex objects.
The popular and insightful quote, “You can’t be what you can’t see” is very relevant to the field of cybersecurity, and male-dominated technology fields in general. It is necessary to motivate women to take up careers in the field of cybersecurity in order to take advantage of the widening career opportunities in front of them. This can be done by organizing a lot of conferences and making women participate in them, inviting female speakers to address them and organizing a number of mentoring programs at colleges and schools.
Develop Company Initiatives
There have even been initiative created specifically for women in technology, like Inspirefest, hosted in Dublin, Ireland; the Women in Tech Festival, organized in Mountain View, California; the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, which takes place in Orlando, Florida; and the Women of Silicon Roundabout, held in London, England. In addition to conferences and summits, large private companies have also began to encourage women’s representation in the industry. For example, Fortune 500 company Symantec launched the #iamtech initiative, which bring awareness to the experiences of women and other minorities in technology. Symantec volunteers organized also organized events during Tech Trek, a summer camp for rising eighth-grade girls, which aimed to motivate them to consider careers in cybersecurity.
Now that companies understand the value of being diverse and inclusive, it’s important to motivate young women to pursue their interests in technology. Not only should these women join the cybersecurity workforce, but they should also aspire to hold leadership roles or star their own company. Some initiatives like the ability to work remotely, or the option to attend certificate programs (on the company’s dime) can also help attract and retain women in the cybersecurity industry.
Educate the Public
Even though companies have put many great initiatives in place, it is still necessary to change the general public’s perception of women in cybersecurity. In 2015, Isis Wenger, a software engineer made an appearance on poster for a campaign advertising her company. A number of people refused to believe that Wenger was a real engineer, saying that she must be a model. In response to these doubts, Wenger started using the hashtag #iLookLikeAnEngineer to help eradicate the stereotype of what engineers are “supposed to” look like. The movement encouraged a lot of female engineers and professionals to share their pictures on social media to display their work and educate others on their roles in these careers.
Today’s women are excelling in many new and challenging career fields. Although often underappreciated, cybersecurity is a very rewarding field, even though it is not a common choice for women looking to start a career. This quote from Sarah Friar, CFO at Square, perfectly sums up this shift: “A diversity of thought, perspective and culture is important in any field, not just engineering. Surround yourself with people who support you and get involved in [coding] programs.”