Women made up 11% of information security jobs globally in 2013. Seven years later, women now make up nearly a quarter of the cybersecurity workforce. This shift brings new perspectives and experiences to the field. But with men still outnumbering women three to one, there is a lot of room for change.
From a young age, there is an unequal perception about science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) curricula, including cybersecurity. Boys and girls are both exposed to STEM. But boys are more encouraged to pursue careers in those fields.
Schools and organizations play a large role in changing the cybersecurity workforce. Due to this influence, they must encourage women to explore cyber careers and empower tomorrow’s professionals.
Encourage and Explore Learning Opportunities
Studies continue to show a pay difference between men and women in similar cybersecurity jobs. This is likely why women place more value than men—28% vs. 20%—on degrees and certifications.
To meet this demand, organizations offer multiple ways to earn those certifications. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) offers key resources for ongoing education, including:
- National Initiatives for Cybersecurity Careers and Studies (NICCS) Education and Training Catalog: This tool offers over 4,000 courses to cybersecurity professionals. Users can search for local and online courses to grow their skills, earn certifications, and move into a new career.
- Federal Virtual Training Environment (FedVTE): FedVTE provides free cybersecurity training to all U.S. federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government employees, U.S. active duty military, Veterans, and federal contractors. This program offers over 60 courses from beginner to advanced, and certification prep courses.
Build Networks and Mentorship Programs
The low number of women in cybersecurity shows the need for women to network within the field. Around the world, organizations work to close the gender gap by connecting and supporting women in cybersecurity. These organizations allow women to join groups, attend conferences, further their education, and explore new possibilities in cybersecurity.
Organizations also offer ways to connect with industry leaders and find mentorships. A mentor can be a trustworthy source for guidance and networking. Mentors can also provide lessons learned from their own past experiences.
Even more, mentoring offers a great chance to pay it forward. By taking newcomers under their wing, it allows collaboration between women in the organization. With female leaders to look towards, newcomers see the possibilities ahead of them.
Empower the Next Generation of Cybersecurity Professionals
Different pathways to cybersecurity careers are important to closing the gender gap and filling our Nation’s 500,000 open cybersecurity jobs. We must prepare the future workforce through STEM education and hands-on activities.
Encourage family, friends, and the community to participate in STEM programs. These programs offer girls a glimpse into why cybersecurity is so important. A STEM-focused education can lead to scholarships and employment. Programs like the National Centers of Academic Excellence (CAE) and CyberCorps®: Scholarship for Service prepare the next generation of cyber professionals.
Organizations and schools should encourage interactive learning. One option is for students to further their education through internships. Internships can help all types of learners by providing chances to observe and perform. It empowers women to apply their education and be confident in their abilities.
Future of Cyber and Women
With over four million open cybersecurity positions around the world, our Nation needs a shift in focus.
Transforming the workforce will open the door to new energy and perspectives that will further advance the field. We need to pull more women into the workforce through learning opportunities, networking, and mentorship programs. This focus will prepare tomorrow’s cybersecurity professionals to face the challenges of the future.