Equality for women in the cybersecurity workforce may take a decade

Progression in career and making it less of a “boys-only club” will allow better advancement within the industry.
4 March 2021

Equality for women in the cybersecurity workforce may take at least a decade. Source: Shutterstock

  • Women working in the industry believe it will take at least a decade for them to be treated as equals to men
  • Nearly half have experienced a lack of career progression or even been paid noticeably less than men doing the same job
  • Without greater diversity and inclusion, the industry risks stagnating

Cybersecurity is unfortunately a male-dominated field around the world. The gender gap and non-inclusion of women within the industry are alarming and require severe transformations for a more diversified and inclusive workforce. It is also important to remove the stigma that cybersecurity is a gender-specific field for better equality.

For context, recent research from the Chartered Institute of Information Security (CIISec) shed light on the worrying state of diversity within the cybersecurity industry whereby 57% of women working in the industry believe it will take at least a decade for them to be treated as equals to men. Some 20% actually believed equality for women will never happen. 

That said, women are clear on what is needed to address the issues: 56% believe better support and career progression, 49% say the industry needs to be less of a “boys only club”, and 47% say more women in the industry would make a positive impact. The research also shows women are struggling to progress both due to the status quo of the industry, and due to not getting the required support. 

What’s worst, almost half or 47% have experienced or observed blatant sexism that was not disciplined. Meanwhile, 50% of the respondents say they feel they lack the necessary skills to progress to a new role and 61% say a lack of confidence in their own abilities is holding them back.   

CEO of CIISec, Amanda Finch, said that there’s no question that the cybersecurity industry must become more diverse. “This isn’t only a matter of creating a more inclusive and fairer world, without greater diversity and inclusion, the industry risks stagnating. Organizations need to work together to eradicate the “boys only club” culture cybersecurity has built up over the years.”

She also believes that as an industry facing a skills shortage, it can’t afford to drive away valuable new blood that could bring fresh new ideas. “We need to encourage a new generation of talent into the industry and give women better support; both to help them progress, and so they want to stay in their careers,” she added.

Equality for women – what can be done?

To encourage equality and women to join the industry and support those already in it, first and foremost, organizations need to understand what women want in their careers. When asked what was most important to them when considering a role in cybersecurity, the research claims 63% want the opportunity to learn new things, 57% aim for the work-life balance, another 54% say career progression, and 46% say the challenge of the role. 

“Addressing the diversity issue isn’t a quick overnight fix. We need to dig deep into the underlying issues and address them from the ground up to really put this right. Understanding exactly what women are experiencing and need are just the first steps to help make a change. We need to offer clear paths to progression through frameworks and ongoing training,” Amanda said.

She reckons to break down barriers and demonstrate the varied roles and career paths within the industry. Doing this will help make a real difference in encouraging women into the industry, bringing with them the new skills we so desperately need to fight against the changing threat landscape.

Providing women with vocational education and skill-based training in the field of cybersecurity could prioritize and support their professional development for active participation in widely available jobs. Education, engagement, and collaboration are all important parts of opening up the world of cybersecurity to individuals who may have ruled it out as a career path, including women and those from underrepresented backgrounds.