It’s no secret that cybersecurity has operated for years as a predominantly male-dominated field. Women only hold roughly 25% of all cybersecurity jobs globally, according to 2022 research from Cybersecurity Ventures.
We need to do better as an industry to bridge the gender gap, not just because it’s the right thing to do. We need to because women possess an innate threat modeling instinct that translates into better cybersecurity and reduced risk for businesses.
This idea that women are natural risk modelers and managers has gained traction. And in the field of cybersecurity, which is fraught with uncertainty and risk, more women in the cybersecurity workforce has become a must-have, not a nice-to-have.
Risk Aware vs. Risk Averse: There’s a difference
Every day we hear of new sophisticated techniques threatening our respective attack surfaces—whether business or personal. The stakes become increasingly higher, involving not just financial losses, but also risks to national security, individual privacy, and corporate reputation.
The ability to identify, assess and prioritize growing cybersecurity risks is not just a good trait; it’s a must in today’s threat landscape. It’s precisely this that makes so many women well-suited for a career in cybersecurity.
Early on, women are taught as kids to be more risk-aware, exercising a heightened sense of caution and diligence when navigating uncertain environments. This isn't to say that women are risk-averse or overly cautious, but rather, we approach risk in a calculated and balanced manner.
We question, we look around corners, we weigh risk and reward — and we do it together to benefit a larger whole, not the discrete – and that’s extremely powerful.
Applying those reflexes to cybersecurity make women a formidable asset. Security, after all, functions as a risk equation. The ability to weigh risk and make trade-offs to achieve goals make women an untapped force within cybersecurity.
Cybersecurity requires above-average collaboration and communication
Let’s face it, cybersecurity requires a team, it’s not a single-player sport. As cybersecurity professionals, we’re constantly messaging that everyone must take responsibility for security. But practically speaking, managing a security program takes well-honed collaboration skills and well-developed partnership muscles.
Whether you're handling an incident, developing a product, or running day-to-day operations — knowing how to build partners and champions across engineering, legal, communications, finance, and the board makes all the difference.
And it’s not just internal partners we need to communicate with, but external too. This can include everything and everyone from government authorities, law enforcement and community analysts to researchers, customers, and employees.
This ability to communicate and collaborate has become one of reasons many women excel within cybersecurity. Working in groups and teams comes naturally to women. From early on, we’re taught to become both strong leaders and curators of social groups: we’re designers and collaborators.
Women: 50% of a winning cybersecurity success story
The vast threat landscape we exist in today has become much bigger than any one gender or group can tackle. Adversaries are diverse and their skills continuously evolve. To defend against adversaries and reduce risk means to lock arms together with every advantage we can find and every tool we can bring to the table. It takes a village — the whole village.
Don’t think about closing the gender gap just in terms of numbers – it’s much more about reducing cyber risk.
Anne Marie Zettlemoyer, chief security officer, CyCognito