Women in IT Security, Leadership

Cybersecurity has become a meritocracy — and that presents a great opportunity for women

Smart Female IT Programer Working on Desktop Computer in Data Center System Control Room. Team of Young Professionals Doing Code Programming

Believe it or not, cybersecurity has increasingly become a meritocracy, and that presents a great opportunity for women to join the field. Driven by a massive talent shortage and a rapidly-evolving threat landscape, the industry has quickly recognized that proficiency is the real basis for competence, not gender.

But make no mistake, biases still exist. And cybersecurity, while dynamic and exciting, is not for the faint of heart. The cyber risks individuals, businesses, and countries face are very real. 

So, to my fellow women who aspire to enter cybersecurity, embrace the challenge, but weigh the various options and, most importantly, find an organization that values diversity and inclusion. 

I am looking for my first job in cybersecurity — what should I look for?

I have been lucky in my career thus far. I have, by and large, worked alongside people who value my skills and contributions, regardless of my gender. 

But finding the right organization can take a bit of trial and error for many. Here are a six lessons I learned along the way that might help those women looking to join our industry:

  • A truly inclusive company ‘walks the walk’ through action, not words: This come through from the first interview. Inquire about policies that foster an environment free from discrimination and bias. Check whether the company has a supportive culture, offers flexible work schedules, and ensures equal opportunities for both personal and professional growth.
  • Representation in leadership matters: Having women in management positions sets a great precedent and also ensures that women's perspectives are included in decision-making. Make sure women have a seat at the table. As a team leader, I serve as a concrete example to my industry peers and those coming up through the ranks that women can and do lead.
  • Look for pay equity: In North America, women in cybersecurity earned roughly $22,000 less than their male peers, according to aggregate data from the last three (ISC)2 Cybersecurity Workforce Studies (2019, 2020 and 2021). It’s paramount to ensure the company is committed to pay equity and maintains transparency in their compensation structures.
  • Mentorship programs are important, especially early-on: A company that values its employees' professional growth will have mentorship programs and clear paths to leadership. Even in smaller growth companies without formal programs, look for tangible support, training and encouragement for women to take up leadership roles.
  • Choose balance over burnout: We work in a very stressful field. Find a company that respects an employee’s personal time and encourages a healthy work-life balance. Whether through flexible hours, remote work options, or fair leave policies, a good employer should recognize that people are private people first, professional second, and that work-life balance makes for better, happier employees.
  • Make sure the company offers continuous learning opportunities: The threat landscape changes by the second with new threats and emerging techniques. Bad actors are almost always a step ahead. As such, it's crucial that employers support ongoing education and skills development. Look for companies that invest in their employees by offering access to continued learning resources, conferences, workshops, and certifications.

Above all, stay confident and know how much value women bring to the table. Everyone faces obstacles along the way, but perseverance, courage, and commitment can make a world of difference.

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