Women in Cybersecurity: How Diversity Can Help Combat Cyber Threatsby@jtruong
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Women in Cybersecurity: How Diversity Can Help Combat Cyber Threats

by Jessica TruongMay 20th, 2021
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Gender diversity can help build a workplace where people are unafraid to speak up and bring their experiences to the table to tackle a problem as a team.

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According to ISC2, women make up about 24% of the cybersecurity workforce which has increased a bit since the last study. The number of women who pursue cybersecurity as a career or any other STEM career is low because of the stereotype that these careers are better suited for men. Other statistics show that 69% of women do not pursue a career in IT because they were unaware of the opportunities. Cybersecurity is currently dominated by males (which does not come as a surprise). 

The images that we often (if not always) see online of a hacker is assumed to be a male disguised in an Anonymous mask hunched over his laptop. Such images along with the societal view that security is a male profession, have unfortunately caused many to believe that males are better suited for the job and that women do not have the necessary skill sets to fulfill the job position. This is why even those who are interested in a role within cybersecurity tend to overlook employment opportunities.

How to Close the Gender Gap

Education plays an important role when it comes to closing this gender gap. STEM subjects should be promoted to young females while they are in school to be aware of the different opportunities available to them. It is crucial to create a movement that will encourage more girls to become involved in IT. 

Having the proper education, training, and encouragement from peers, parents, and the media will help increase the number of women going into IT. Recruitment of more women will also aid in closing the gender gap. Society needs to remove the negative perception that cybersecurity is not a feasible career for women and explain why it should be considered a career for women. Normalize women being in the field!

Why Does Diversity Matter?

Humans are the weakest link, and it only takes one mistake for a disaster to occur. Cybersecurity requires both men and women with different skills to work together as a team to resolve an issue. Diversity can help build a workplace where people are unafraid to speak up, point out issues, and bring their experiences to the table to tackle a problem as a team. If the security team comprises people that all think the same and have the same approach to solve the problem, no progress will be made. Thus, having different viewpoints and approaches will not only be beneficial but will lead to a variety of creative solutions. 

Cybersecurity is constantly evolving, and so is the technology used within it; the best way to stay ahead of the adversaries is to have fresh and diverse perspectives. Diversity is not only limited to gender. It also includes skills, background, experience, education. 

Solving threats is not something one can do alone; it takes people from different backgrounds and experiences to find a solution. Diversity is a must to unlock the full potential in an organization because without it, you may not notice some of the areas you are neglecting (Cybercrime Magazine).

Networking is Key

As a woman in cybersecurity, I have learned that networking is important. It is a great way to meet and support other women in tech. 

A great way to network is to join a community, such as a Women in Tech chapter, wherever you reside. In some cases, they may have events where you would get together and listen to a guest speaker (or virtually, now due to COVID). It may seem intimidating at first to put yourself out there, but just remember that “all progress takes place outside the comfort zone” (The Drum). You never know who you will meet and what opportunities and experiences may be available to you.

Do not be afraid!

Women, do not be afraid to pursue a career in cybersecurity. Although it may seem intimidating to be one of the few women in a male dominant team, you should embrace it. Your voice matters within the team, and you may bring a set of valuable skills to the team. As stated in a Kaspersky article, “Women should have confidence in their capabilities and get out of imposter syndrome”. 

It is important to stay informed on the latest news in cybersecurity and to continue to learn and gain skills without the fear of failure. So keep pushing yourself, and don’t be afraid of a challenge.

Women in Cybersecurity: Tips for Entering The Field 

Don’t be intimidated; take on the challenge!

  • Don’t be intimidated that it's a male-dominant field; instead, use that as motivation to learn and gain the knowledge and experience to be successful.

Network (you might meet someone who could turn into your mentor)

  • Attend conferences, meetup events, reach out to someone working in the industry to learn more about what they do.
  • Meeting other people may help you find your niche within cybersecurity.

Keep Learning

  • Like every other career, cybersecurity is also a learning process; no one is an expert in the field, and there is always something new to learn about. 

Confidence is KEY

  • Speak and act with confidence, I know this is easier said than done, but it's important to show that you are equally knowledgeable about the topic being discussed.

Search for opportunities within your current company

  • Check internally to see if there is any availability in the security team that your company is looking to fill before moving to another organization 

Do not be afraid to be a woman in cybersecurity, instead take that fear and use it as motivation to gain knowledge in the field. There are many websites that you can learn from. For example, if you are interested in penetration testing, then Hack The Box would be the site for you. It definitely isn’t for beginners, but it is a great site that you can use to test your penetration testing skills once you have gained a bit of knowledge in the area.

I am proud to be a woman in tech because being in this space really made me push myself to learn more to succeed in my career. I advocate for women in cybersecurity and hope to be a role model for young girls interested in a tech career.