Women have always had to fight hard for equality and acceptance, especially in the workplace. In primarily male-dominated fields like cybersecurity, women make up only 20 percent of the workforce. Although that figure is climbing, we have a long way to go before women are seen as more than tokens in the industry.
There is a tremendous opportunity for women who want to break into cybersecurity. According to Forbes Magazine, by 2021, there will be 3.5 million jobs available in cybersecurity. Cybercrime is on the rise, and companies all over the world are scrambling to fill the open positions with good cyber technicians to field the swarm of threats that are coming.
Experts hope that within the next few years, that gender gap will narrow with women making up 50 percent of the cybersecurity workforce. Although that climb might be ambitious, more women are entering the industry every day and making a difference,
Closing the gender gap is not only crucial for business, it is essential for cybersecurity itself. The threats to computers, networks, and individuals come from a diverse pool of people with varying experiences and backgrounds. So in keeping with the “fight fire with fire” mentality, the industry needs to diversify its combatants just to keep up.
Another pressing issue is that there is a significant labor shortage in the field of cybersecurity. The need far outweighs the solution right now, and since women make up more than half the population, there is an excellent opportunity for women to enter this field and earn top-paying, leadership roles.
Traditionally, women in male-dominated industries are often victim to discrimination and gender disparity. However, with the great need for smart, capable engineers, companies are working hard to equalize their workforce and diversify to make these positions appealing to women and other underrepresented groups.
There is no better example of a trailblazer in cybersecurity than Ann Barron-DiCamillo, head of the Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT). Barron-DiCamillo has been spearheading the United States cybersecurity initiative for almost three years. She is a well-respected representative in the technical community.
With a strong military background in both the Army and Navy, Essye B. Miller made her mark in cybersecurity when she accepted the position of U.S. Department of Defense’s Deputy Chief Information Officer for Cybersecurity. Miller is a born leader who held previous leadership positions before this current one.
Another excellent example of a strong woman in cybersecurity is Angela McKay, Microsoft’s Senior Director of Cybersecurity and Strategy. McKay was previously a senior advisor for President Barack Obama.
Women like these inspire others to break that glass ceiling and pursue their dream careers in technology while also paving the way for others. These long strides that existing players make in the field will help open doors for many more to follow.
What appeals to many women working in cybersecurity is that the job is more than just programming, it’s about making smart decisions and strategizing to outsmart the enemy. In essence, you help to keep people safe from harm. Finding and putting cybercriminals behind bars is rewarding for many of the women who engage in online cybersecurity combat every day.
Cybersecurity also offers a lot of excitement. In and amongst the minutiae of the day-to-day monitoring and programming comes security incidents, each with their own excitement factor and challenges. Every threat provides an environment to learn and adapt quickly, to respond and react with confidence and to triumph over your opponent.
Other women in the field like the fact that they are affecting global change. The impact of their work is far-reaching and revolutionary. The fast-paced workflow keeps female engineers on their toes and busy; there is no time to get bored as a cybersecurity professional. Many positions also offer a lot of freedom and flexibility, which helps when balancing family life with a career.
The blockchain industry is another clear indication that there is a serious diversity problem in this country. The shortage of women at a recent blockchain conference spoke volumes about the industry itself. Blockchain was initially intended to be for everyone, not a small subset of the population.
In many cases, the problem boils down to money and opportunity. To break into blockchain, you need at least a high-school education, but college is better. You also need the money for a good computer and internet access. Not everyone has access to these necessities to qualify or even the basic information to know what blockchain is and how it works.
Stereotypes also get in the way of inviting women and minorities into blockchain. Discrimination, sexual harassment, and bullying are additional issues. Since big business has taken an interest in blockchain, the problem has worsened. Blockchain is now gaining the reputation of being only for the wealthy businessman. A lot needs to change for these roadblocks to be dissolved enough for diversity to reign.
Traditionally, young, white males filled technical jobs like IT and cybersecurity. However, as pioneering women enter the field and make waves, that demographic is changing. Not only do we need more women in cybersecurity but also a diverse group of people from all different ethnic, financial, and religious backgrounds.
Diversity in the workplace is just good business. It breeds more creativity, collaboration, and leads to innovative solutions, which could equal beating out the competition. Diverse companies encourage more loyalty and employee satisfaction. When businesses focus solely on job compatibility rather than any other factor, both the company and the employees win.
Old-school thinking and businesses have no place in our modern, fast-paced world. Diversity opens up a world of opportunity and allows companies to hire from a much larger, more well-educated and suitable workforce. In the end, they become more efficient, more productive and more successful.