Women in IT Security

Place the spotlight on women to inspire the next generation of cybersecurity

Women in cyber

As cybersecurity grows in importance today, we’ll need to attract more women into our field. According to the job search site Zippia, 16.8% of cyber security jobs are held by women. In a Substack article about International Women's Day on March 7, author and security industry analyst Richard Stiennon wrote that only 2.1% of global cybersecurity companies have female CEOs. I'm one of them, and as the CEO of a cyber company, I regularly ponder how we can draw more women into cyber.

At its core, a career in cybersecurity offers several benefits that women tend to seek: competitive compensation, flexibility, and the opportunity to effect substantial change. However, we still see a glaring gap in female representation across all levels of the industry. How can we combat this? For starters, we must highlight the women leading the charge in cybersecurity. Echoing the sentiments of Marian Wright Edelman, a prominent civil rights activist, "You cannot be what you cannot see."

  • Spotlight women in cybersecurity in educational environments: This has become crucial as these institutions shape and nurture career interests. We need to integrate examples of women in cybersecurity into school curriculums, showcase guest speakers, and incorporate narratives of female technologists into various mediums of educational content. We need to spotlight women in cybersecurity, particularly in educational institutions at all levels, as that's where career interests are born. We should show students of all ages what women in cybersecurity look like by bringing in guest speakers, integrating women's stories into history lessons, or even featuring videos of fictional female technologists from TV and movies solving relevant problems. Maybe it's time for Mattel to launch Cyber Barbie!
  • Equip educators with cybersecurity knowledge: Sponsorships for teachers to undertake cybersecurity courses and gain certificates can offer the necessary expertise to inspire students. This knowledge can extend to suggesting resources for coding clubs and cybersecurity camps specifically targeted toward female students. I like the idea of sponsoring teachers to attend cybersecurity courses, earn certificates or even attend cybersecurity conferences to equip them with the latest information to teach students. We should also make resources about coding clubs and cybersecurity camps available to female students.
  • Illustrate clear career paths: Women must understand the career path before they will jump in and participate. High schools should develop advanced cybersecurity courses, using language in course descriptions and other course materials that align with best practices for attracting and engaging more women students. Numerous studies have shown that women prefer to work in teams, so these courses should focus on teamwork and solving problems together.
  • Engage the media: The media takes the lead in shaping societal perceptions. Women in cybersecurity should regularly appear as guest speakers, expert commentators, and influencers when cyber-related incidents are reported. Whether in TV, radio, digital, or print, women in cyber should be included as special guests, commentators, and subject-matter experts when major cyber-attacks and breaches are in the news.
  • Recognize and publicize notable women in cybersecurity: We must also celebrate women who have made significant contributions to the field. These include figures like Jen Easterly, director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency under the Biden administration; Katie Moussouris, the creator of Microsoft's bug bounty program; Dorothy Denning, an early information security researcher known for developing the first statistical anomaly detection model, and Camille Gloster, Deputy National Cyber Director for Technology and Ecosystem for The White House. Highlighting their achievements shines a spotlight on the possible career trajectories for women in the field.

At our company, we are committed to doing our part. We focus on inspiring young women to consider education and careers in cybersecurity. We have partnered with organizations like the Spark! charity to raise awareness of the opportunities in the industry. The talented women at our company serve as role models, showcasing cybersecurity's exciting and rewarding career paths.

The need for enhanced female participation in cybersecurity is clear. We must collectively ensure women are visible and thriving in this critical sector. The industry offers excellent career opportunities and the chance to make a real difference in our increasingly digital world. We can inspire the next generation of female cyber professionals by spotlighting women making waves in cybersecurity.

Connie Stack, chief executive officer, Next DLP

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