We’re Not There Yet – Women In Cybersecurity

By Zinet Kemal, Best Buy

The cybersecurity space, as dynamic and challenging as it is, has been witnessing a gradual but significant change – the rising influence of women in its ranks. When I took the plunge into this field in late 2017, it was like stepping into a world where women were just a ripple in a vast ocean, making up 14% inching up from 11% of the industry’s workforce.

Fast forward to today, and that ripple has become more noticeable, with women representing around 25% of the cybersecurity workforce. It’s a shift, yes, but let’s be clear: we’re not there yet. 

The recent surge to nearly a quarter of representation is heartening, but it’s not the full picture. The industry has been hit by a workforce gap that’s not just 3.4 million as we know it but 4 million, exacerbated by recent cutbacks and layoffs as per a recent ISC2 report.

This begs the question: how has this impacted women in cybersecurity? What about women from underrepresented groups? The truth is, it’s a mixed bag. On one hand, there’s the optimism that women in cybersecurity is projected to grow to 30% by 2025. On the other, there’s the stark reality that we’re still far from where we need to be. 

Cybersecurity, at its core, thrives on diverse perspectives and innovative problem-solving approaches. The need for women in this field isn’t just about hitting a quota or balancing ratios; it’s about enriching the industry with diverse insights and experiences. Women, with their unique perspectives, are instrumental in driving innovation and contributing to problem-solving in ways that homogeneity simply cannot. 

Women’s involvement brings to the table different life experiences, viewpoints, and creativity – aspects essential for tackling complex, ever-evolving cybersecurity challenges. The inclusion of women, particularly those from underrepresented backgrounds such as Black communities, stands not as a mere act of equity but as a strategic imperative for the industry. 

What Can We Do to Ensure That Cybersecurity Isn’t Missing Out? 

Targeted initiatives can spark interest in young girls at an early age. These efforts and programs aim not just to open doors but to pave new pathways for the youth who might not have seen cybersecurity as a viable career option. This is also why I published ‘Oh, No …Hacked Again! and ‘See Yourself in Cybersecurity’ to educate children not only about the importance of online safety but creating exposure and introducing them to cybersecurity careers. 

The power of mentorship cannot be overstated, by pairing emerging talents with seasoned professionals. We’re not just transferring knowledge; we’re also building confidence and breaking down the invisible barriers that often deter women from advancing in the field. 

I am also big on building personal brand and networking opportunities tailored for women and underrepresented groups to serve as both a support system and a professional springboard. This is also why I created a LinkedIn Learning Course on Build Your Brand in Cybersecurity for both aspiring and seasoned cybersecurity professionals. 

Moreover, fostering an environment that champions professional development that ensures that once talent is in the door, it has every opportunity to grow, lead, and innovate. 

The voices of women in cybersecurity need amplification, not just within their organizations but across the industry. Advocating for and highlighting successes, and ensuring women are visible in leadership roles, paying them what their skill worth, speaking engagements, and in the media, sends a powerful message about the value of diversity in cybersecurity. 

We need to continue pushing the boundaries, breaking stereotypes, and paving the way for more women to enter and thrive in this field. The industry desperately needs this infusion of more women and diversity of thought to continue growing, innovating, and effectively securing our world. 

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this guest post are solely those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The Cyber Express. Any content provided by the author is of their opinion and is not intended to malign any religion, ethnic group, club, organization, company, individual, or anyone or anything. 

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