March is celebrated as Women’s History Month, a time when we celebrate the contributions women have made through important historical events and in contemporary society. It’s also an opportunity for us to reflect upon our progress as individuals, societies, countries, and industries across the globe. Just how far have we come as a society in enabling women to realize the best of their potential?
People might argue that there are sectors that are primarily dominated by women, such as nursing, public relations, primary school teaching, or human resources. While this is undoubtedly admirable and needs to be lauded, if you look closely, you’ll realize that most of these are jobs that place a lot of emphasis on soft skills. This begs the question that even in 2022, are there certain kinds of jobs and industries that the world feels should be naturally accorded to women? Are we still not considered “smart” enough or “savvy enough” for other male-dominated industries, like technology?
While women represent nearly 50% of the global population, they made up only 25% of the global cybersecurity workforce in 2021. That’s still a long way to go for the 50-50 ratio we aspire towards. This is not due to a lack of jobs, mind you. As per recent research conducted by Cybersecurity Ventures, the number of unfilled cybersecurity jobs has grown by 350% in the last 8 years, from 1 million positions in 2013 to 3.5 million in 2021. Now, that’s a staggering number! That many jobs, so many qualified women candidates out there, and there’s still a growing skill gap in the sector.
A long way to go
There is no doubt that the technology sector and the cybersecurity industry, in particular, have realized the importance of equal gender representation. However, there is still room for improvement. The sector needs to make a concentrated effort to address its gender disparity by creating equal opportunities, providing equal access to training, and introducing skill development initiatives and projects for women.
It’s essential to keep in mind that organizations should not approach diversity and inclusion initiatives with the mindset of merely ticking off another thing from their checklist. This is not just a marketing campaign that’s going to improve your gender ratios and propel your brand into the limelight. It’s not something that needs to be done just to avoid facing public scrutiny and/or backlash. There are real, tangible benefits that women bring to the table, benefits that will translate into better business for your organization.
Benefits of gender diversity in cybersecurity
It’s easy to think, “What’s in it for me?” or “Why should I make an effort to go the extra mile when I have perfectly decent male candidates available at a moment’s notice?” This often happens because top management or hiring managers lack awareness of the advantages of recruiting women for cybersecurity roles. The argument for greater gender equality in cybersecurity should not be reduced to a men versus women debate. The debate has never been that, in the first place. In fact, it’s about the fact that having more women in the workplace is beneficial for business. Diversity in perspectives, leadership, and experience is excellent for businesses.
Not only do women bring a wide range of experience and technical skills to the table, but they also possess broad essential soft skills that make teams more diverse and productive. Women also bring more tangible benefits to the industry. In a recent podcast with ManageEngine Insights, Jane Frankland, founder of the IN Security Movement and a UNESCO Trailblazing Woman in Tech, says, “Women see risk in a different way to men. Women are very accurate in terms of risk management…we are highly attuned to risks, and we can spot anomalies very easily.” She goes on to add, “If we’ve got hackers who are profiling us, they’re basically modeling it on men because the majority of the industry is male. So when we have more men, if there has been an attack that has been written purely for a male receiver, then a woman will be able to spot that more easily.”
In addition to this, there are numerous different factors that are worth ensuring that more women are given a seat at the table. Gender and diversity balanced teams are known to be better at decision-making and, as a result, perform better. The social and emotional intelligence that women bring into the equation is also worthy of mention.
Keeping these benefits and the challenges that women in tech face, we must collectively pledge to adopt more focused and inclusive recruitment strategies to hire more women into the cybersecurity industry. And this is where the leadership teams, human resources policies, and hiring practices come into the picture. Organizations often do not approach the hiring process equally, as many women feel that men are more often hired based on mere “potential”, while the same consideration is not extended to women.
The importance of gender equality is a mindset that needs to be driven from the top. It requires a cultural and social shift in perspective that can only be lastingly achieved when it’s coming from the very founders of the organization. When businesses include diversity and gender equality in their core values, in their overall mission statements, women and other under-represented groups feel seen and feel that they are welcome and valued in the organization. These changes can leave a lasting positive impression on individuals considering applying to jobs.
To start with, organizations should scrutinize their current hiring practices, their human resource policies, the existing culture and try to determine the root cause of the issue. Identify the good and bad practices, and assess the impact they are having on your employees. It might take time, and it might require multiple iterations, but as more women enter the industry, they pave the way for others to do the same. This creates a chain-reaction of female advancement that in turn fosters sustainable diversity. The result is a rich and diverse work environment where every individual feels confident, welcome, and empowered to succeed.