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Issues related to cybersecurity threaten to destabilize the internet and related technologies, causing ripple effects throughout other industries. To combat this, there is an ever-increasing need for educated, talented, and enthusiastic cybersecurity professionals.
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The cybersecurity industry is a male-dominated one. Thankfully, the gender gap has not gone unnoticed. Plenty of individuals and organizations realize we need to take action. Priorities include attracting more women to the cybersecurity field and empowering them to be successful in their careers.
Various initiatives are in place across the globe with the common goal of supporting women in cybersecurity. They often include education, training, networking, mentorship, and socializing, among other offerings.
In this article, we take a closer look at the gender gap and the challenges faced by women in IT security, before highlighting some of the initiatives dedicated to helping them. A report by Cybersecurity Ventures states that women make up 20 percent of the cybersecurity workforce, while an ISC 2 study using different criteria pegs the slightly higher at 24 percent.
Even though the percentage of women in cybersecurity has increased since — when women represented just 11 percent of the industry workforce — there is clearly still a gender gap. Most industries these days rely on technology to function, and thus have needs in terms of cybersecurity. Having more women in cybersecurity would help boost the industry and fill the drastic need that companies have for top talent.
Interestingly, the ISC 2 study found that women in this field are, in general, better educated than men, and a larger percentage of women are reaching top positions. Infosec Institute writer Susan Morrow explains:.
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This is a societal issue. STEM fields, in general, have become associated with men. Since these perceptions are based on the status quo rather than scientific evidence, closing the gender gap could help to correct them. ISC 2 found that women in cybersecurity are generally better educated; 44 percent of men in cybersecurity have a postgraduate degree, compared to 52 percent of women. This shows that gender diversity comes with growth and learning opportunities. The entire workforce and organization as a whole can benefit from the recruitment of more highly-qualified and ambitious women.
Closing the gender gap will help pave the way for a future of gender diversity and hopefully other types of diversity in the cybersecurity field. Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math STEM education is getting a huge push in curriculums in various parts of the globe, and many graduates emerge with the skills and desire to pursue a career in infosec.
However, with many more STEM-related industries to choose from, the obvious gender imbalance in the cybersecurity industry may create negative perceptions that deter some women from the field. Reframing common misconceptions women have about cybersecurity is important for helping them see the opportunities in the field.
Here are some examples of negative perceptions and alternative ways to view them. Even once a woman has decided to pursue a career in cybersecurity, she might face a of hurdles. For example, a ISC 2 study found that 51 percent of women in cybersecurity faced some form of discrimination. While that figure is alarming, certain tactics can help overcome problems. Learning about what challenges women may face and being armed with potential solutions can make entering and staying in the cybersecurity industry more manageable.
While the gender divide in cybersecurity is clear, thankfully many women and men in the industry recognize the issue and are taking steps to close the gap. From the US to Ukraine, a plethora of initiatives across the globe help to attract girls and women to careers in cybersecurity and assist those already in the field. WiCys is a nonprofit membership organization that aims to bring together women in cybersecurity to share experience and knowledge, and provide mentoring and networking opportunities.
The initiative is for all women involved in cybersecurity, including in academia, research, government, and industry.
WiCys serves both women in cybersecurity and companies who can benefit from their expertise. WiCys also provides companies with a pipeline of qualified cybersecurity job candidates at all levels. It promotes the fact that aside from being highly qualified, female candidates can enhance diversity within the workforce and improve external perceptions. Another nonprofit membership organization, WSC was founded in and now serves thousands of women around the world. It has a ton of programs deed to give women a leg up in the industry, including workshops, networking events, job boards, and certification preparation study groups.
The overall mission of this organization is to empower women to succeed in cybersecurity roles. For any woman entering cyber, be fearless. Take the initiative to learn and grow. People are going to challenge you. Never give up. This organization takes care of the social aspect of women in cybersecurity. This group is mainly for those who would like to experience the camaraderie of meeting like-minded women in the cybersecurity industry.
Inspired by a Cyber Ladies Meetup group in Israel, cofounder Tanya Janca shehackspurple wanted to create a similar environment for women and anyone who identifies as a woman to make friends in the cybersecurity industry. Members meet to discuss their work as well as to mentor each other and network. They also attend typically male-dominated events in groups, so as to never feel like the odd one out.
There are no membership fees for WoSEC. A list of chapters can be found at the end of this Code Like a Girl blog postalong with links to the respective Meetup groups.
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The Diana Initiative is a women in cybersecurity conference held in Las Vegas. It was developed by a group of women who felt there was a need for an infosec conference dedicated to females. The conference is for women and non-binary individuals working in or entering the information security industry or related disciplines.
The two-day conference takes place in August and you can buy tickets through The Diana Initiative website. You can bag yourself a free ticket by volunteering to help with the setup and running of the conference. The OWASP WIA is for all women in application security, including instructors, students, and professionals in the information security industry or in application development.
It also seeks to provide training and mentorship opportunities to women in the industry, as well as offer financial support through sponsorship, grants, and scholarships. The SANS Institute is a world-renowned provider of information security research, training, and certification. There are fairly strict requirements for the program, including that applicants are in their senior year in college, preferably enrolled in a field related to computers, IT, or other technical STEM subjects.
One of the best things about Immersion Academies is that they are scholarship-based with no payment required. The program is full, but you can look out for details for when to apply for the program. Get to know as many people in the field as possible.
I highly recommend building a strong support system among other women in the InfoSec field. Seek professional advice. Ask about where you should be focusing your time; what areas of study are most relevant; and what you need to do to get a job.
Code Like A Girl is an online publication through Medium and community group via Facebook for women in technology. It publishes and shares stories that shine a positive light on women in tech.
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The content produced by Code Like A Girl is mainly centered around women in technology but much of it provides a worthy read for anyone interested in the field. Topics include female role models in technology, coding how-tos and troubleshooting, and advice on teaching kids to code.
Lots of the material can be especially beneficial for employers looking to bridge the gender gap. The mission of the team behind Code Like a Girl is to change perceptions of women and tech and to help encourage women of every age to consider a career in technology. You can also follow the publication on MediumTwitteror Facebook. DefCamp is an annual hacking and information security conference that brings together leading cybersecurity experts to share their knowledge and research.
Ladies in Cybersecurity by DefCamp is a similar infosec conference with an all-female lineup. While the event only features female speakers, anyone can attend. As with other DefCamp conferences, it is held in Bucharest, Romania, but is open to attendees from across the globe. The conference organizers want to shine a spotlight on women in the cybersecurity field and show that they can provide insight and guidance that can be beneficial to everyone, not just other women. Speakers talk about cybersecurity threats and their own stories in the infosec industry, plus hands-on workshops and one-to-one sessions.
The event was held in March but you can check the Ladies in Cybersecurity website for details on the next event. Infosec is a very attractive field and we recommend all women who would like to take a taste of it to start slow, read a lot, explore the different parts of cybersecurity, look for role models and learn step-by-step. It might seem a bit overwhelming but, as you learn, it will get very rewarding. The AWSN runs events and initiatives geared towards helping women entering or working in the cybersecurity industry.
This initiative targets female-identifying persons in Australia who are interested in a career in cybersecurity or already work in the field and would like support from a community of like-minded women.
The main goal of this network is to grow the of women involved in the security community by providing support and inspiration. It runs local events and outreach programsand provides mentoring, collaboration, and coaching. It also promotes volunteer and guest-speaking opportunities. Be yourself!
As one of the Australian Women in Security Network AWSN leadership team, I have been approached by a of senior managers and business owners working in cyber or information security and seeking more women, diversity more generally, for their teams. They frequently complain about the lack of women applicants for the positions they advertise. They are seeking diversity and mindful of the gender imbalance on their teams, and importantly, want to reach out to improve that imbalance going forward.
Women Tech Network promotes gender diversity in tech industries, connecting talented professionals with leading companies and startups. It hosts events in various parts of Europe and North America, where women can network with like-minded individuals and meet hiring managers. Although there is more of a focus on general tech and less on cybersecurity, this organization is nonetheless helpful for any women in the technology space.
With many in-person events postponed, there will be a virtual conference held in June, Any women who already work in tech or are interested in tech careers are welcome to attend events. They are especially helpful for anyone who is currently seeking a job in tech.
As mentioned, many events are postponed due to the current pandemic. However, there is a virtual global conference slated for June 10—