Women in Cybersecurity See Positive Growth

July 19, 2022 by Peter Friesen

Women in Cybersecurity See Positive Growth

As women have spent the last half century breaking into technology roles traditionally dominated by men, there’s one sector — cybersecurity —  seeing especially promising growth lately, just as worldwide employee demand rises.

The number of women in cybersecurity positions has steadily increased over the last decade, growing from around 10% to nearly 25% by 2021, according to a study from (ISC)², a cybersecurity nonprofit group. That is a good sign, but there’s more work to do to make cybersecurity a truly equal field.

Hacking it in Cybersecurity

Danelle Daly worked on early cloud hosting more than two decades ago. Her team recognized the need for data security and, although not all of them had cybersecurity backgrounds, they worked on ways to implement different defense strategies across their purpose-built platform.

Now, Daly is the vice president and general manager of cybersecurity for Tyler Technologies, one of a growing number of women in the industry, and one of many who outrank their male counterparts. As her own career path brought her into the cybersecurity world, Daly saw progress, and the work still to be done to bring others like her along.

There’s been more female interest in cybersecurity due to a global push to get more young women and girls into STEM fields while in school, Daly says. Research by (ISC)² shows women are more likely than men to teach themselves or pursue cybersecurity education in order to get a job. Women in the industry are also more likely to have a post-graduate degree.

Younger women are seeing fairer working conditions after they’re hired, although it’s still not completely equal, according to a different, women-focused study from (ISC)². Compensation is much closer for millennials than Gen X or boomers in the industry, but there are still gains to be made. Nearly a third of men are paid $50K-$99K, while one-fifth of women are.

Visible Female Role Models

Daly has seen firsthand the rise of the cybersecurity industry, as well as the increased number of women working in the field. She struggled without a mentor who understood the intersecting challenges of cybersecurity and working as a woman.

By 2019, (ISC)² found more women held leadership roles in cybersecurity than men, being promoted to chief technology officer, IT director, and C-level executives at higher rates. This diversity will not only provide more experienced female mentors to women working their way up the ladder, but it may also improve equitable hiring and diversity initiatives.

Although remote work takes away a physical proximity to potential mentors, Daly says it’s easier than ever for women who may be alone in their company to make connections. There are many online groups aiming to connect women in the industry through trainings, events, and support networks.

Growing the Workforce

As more women fill those leadership roles, and more are hired at all levels, Daly hopes to see women make up half of the cybersecurity workforce in five to 10 years.

This increase would help fill needed positions — two-thirds of cybersecurity professionals report working in understaffed departments, according to (ISC)² — and diversify the cybersecurity workforce, enhancing problem solving and opening up a broader pool of talent.

“My advice is it doesn't matter what path you take into cybersecurity. The key is that you have that kind of mind that enjoys, loves, is passionate about math and sciences,” Daly said. “If you are thinking about a cybersecurity career, see if you can intern or even shadow for a day and find out what it's all about, because it may surprise you.”

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