Women in Cybersecurity and STEM

Cybercrime is one of the biggest threats to businesses around the world. With so much lucrative information held online, from bank account access to names and addresses, cybercriminals can wreak havoc, and steal a lot of money doing so. 

Today, cybersecurity goes far beyond preventing mildly inconvenient viruses. It’s indispensable to businesses as it protects all categories of data from theft or damage. Now that we’re increasingly reliant on the internet, we must safeguard our computer systems from malicious attacks and breaches. 

Cybersecurity is an ever-evolving, in-demand industry requiring a diverse spread of talent, which begs the question: why is there such a stark gender disparity? 

According to the Women’s Society of Cyberjutsu (WSC), women only account for 24% of the world’s information security workforce. The disparity goes beyond cybersecurity, too. STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, and maths) are disproportionately studied by men, which directly correlates with the gender disparity at career level. 

The idea that women have a greater aptitude for arts and humanities as opposed to STEM subjects simply isn’t true; although girls’ and boys’ brains are physically different, there’s no evidence to suggest that this extends to different cognitive abilities. 

Rather, gender stereotypes have bred a lack of interest in STEM subjects amongst girls. This feeds into the misconception that certain fields and professions are ‘male only’, creating a self-perpetuating imbalance. This leads to ‘bias recruiting’ and an increased risk of developing a ‘macho culture’ in the workplace, which is off-putting and ostracising for women. 

It’s high time to break the cycle, but how? 

Inspire young girls 

First and foremost, we need to engage young girls and dispel the stereotype that certain subjects are reserved for certain people. There’s no such thing as a “typical” cybersecurity specialist or network engineer; we’ve just been conditioned to think that these are typically male roles. 

Schools, parents, and STEM professionals need to work together to educate young girls about the STEM fields and how anyone can excel in them. They must understand that STEM subjects are viable and exciting options to pursue if they so wish. If more women are to join the STEM workforce, we need to combat the idea that certain subjects and career paths are off limits or difficult to break into if you’re female.  

Role models 

When we see people similar to us excelling at something we want to pursue, it gives us the motivation and reassurance to continue. As more women succeed in the cybersecurity profession, they serve as role models for other women wanting to join the cybersecurity workforce. 

It’s important to note that although the cybersecurity industry still faces a stark gender imbalance, women account for 24% of the overall workforce, which is significantly higher than findings from 2017 when only 11% of study respondents were women. This is a promising development and will continue to rise if women see an equitable ratio of men and women in cybersecurity companies. 

Fight sexism in STEM 

Women and men across the world are working to end sexism and harassment in the workplace for good. A zero-tolerance approach to sexism is required to combat the patterns of the past. Organisations must respond quickly and fairly to sexist claims and make it clear that discriminatory behaviour isn’t tolerated. 

As more organisations and individuals collaborate to fight sexism, especially in male-dominated STEM fields, everyone will benefit. We need diversity and inclusion to create dynamic teams and uncover solutions and possibilities that we wouldn’t be able to otherwise. Society is stronger when we work together. 

Cybersecurity isn’t just about cybersecurity!

In other words, you don’t have to be a forensic computer analyst or an IT security coordinator to have a successful career in cybersecurity! The industry isn’t comprised solely of people with STEM degrees; there are an array of professions and skillsets needed. From marketing and sales to HR and finance, there’s a role to suit every skill.

If you’re interested in a career in cybersecurity, we’d love to hear from you! Check out our careers page to browse our current job openings: join-the-team

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