On March 8th, our company will proudly celebrate International Women’s Day. While this year’s theme, Break the Bias, applies to women in every professional field and country, we find it particularly relevant to the cybersecurity industry. Gender bias has gone on for too long. Many women haven’t been given the recognition and opportunities they deserve.
Time and time again, women have proven their indispensable value in the greater technology realm. Consider the women in the 1950s who were invaluable contributors to sending the US into space and those like Navy Lieutenant Judy Parsons, whose codebreaking efforts dealt heavy blows to Germany during WWII. These achievements and so many others should have already put women’s skills on equal footing with men, dispelling the age-old myth that women shouldn’t be involved in math and science.
Of course, we have come a long way since decades past. Today there are numerous STEM programs, coding camps, and other opportunities designed to educate and inspire girls and women to become more involved in math, science, and technology. The US Girl Scouts even has a cybersecurity badge. Yet, with all this, women are still underrepresented, although the numbers are encouraging.
Women In Cybersecurity
In 1970, women accounted for 38% of the US workforce but only 8% of STEM workers. Fast forward to 2017, and the numbers grew considerably. Women accounted for 14% of those employed in cybersecurity, compared to 48% of the overall workforce. Progress continued, and by 2019, 24% of the cyber workforce was female, including 21.9% of cyber security analysts.
At CYREBRO, we are proud to be considerably above these numbers. Women across the board have contributed to our success. Thirty-five percent of our global employees are female, as are 24% of our analysts. Recognizing the tremendous impact women have has led to women holding 50% of our management roles, a representation far beyond many other technology startups.
Why women are critical to cybersecurity (and every other type of company)
Women tend to approach things differently. Having diverse perspectives can significantly payoff for a company’s bottom line and long-term health, especially as cybersecurity jobs require various skillsets. Researchers at Nature revealed some interesting statistics supporting this and underscoring the need to eliminate bias against women.
Fifty-one percent of female cybersecurity specialists have advanced degrees compared to 45% of men. In addition to computer science, information, and engineering studies, women often bring other degrees as well, including from business, social sciences, and mathematics. As jobs in the cybersecurity field become more complex, those unique perspectives can breathe new life into risk mitigation, AI and machine learning, and information protection.
An (ISC)2 and Symantec study found women provide even more benefits to cyber companies. They routinely prioritize education and internal company training on the topics of risk management and security and advocate for raising employee awareness. As we know, many security threats fall into the social engineering category, so this type of education is imperative for all businesses to engage in.
A study published in Forbes found that mixed-gender teams make better decisions 73% of the time while all-male teams scored lower. The report also pointed out a compelling statistic that every business should pay attention to decision-making effectiveness is 95% correlated with financial performance. It stands to reason that any company looking to improve its bottom line should focus on diverse and mixed-gender teams.
From another perspective, women have significant purchasing power and will control 75% of discretionary money by 2028. As this is no secret, more companies across all sectors are looking to be more female-friendly. Who better to deliver that female experience than women themselves. It’s fair to say that as privacy concerns and online shopping increase, women will be the ones looking for and purchasing cyber protection for the home, so cyber products that appeal to them will earn better responses.
Women can fill the skills shortage
The cybersecurity field is experiencing a crushing shortage. An astonishing 90% of cybersecurity professionals believe their company suffers because of a skills shortage, and 59% of cyber leaders report it would be challenging to respond to a cyber incident because of their team’s skills shortage. This comes as no surprise given that, in the US alone, around 435,000 cybersecurity positions are waiting to be filled.
So, where is the disconnect, and why aren’t companies hiring more qualified women to bolster their cybersecurity teams? As one Fortinet study found, part of the problem may be in the actual language used in job descriptions. The results noted that male-gendered terms appeared almost twice as much as female-gendered terms. While the study points out that this could be intentional or unintentional, the repercussions were the same – women were driven away from the application process.
Over the last few years, society as a whole has shifted the way it views gender and gendered pronouns, so there is hope that this will contribute to more inclusive wording in job descriptions. At CYREBRO, we have made all efforts to avoid gender terms altogether.
Companies, cyber or otherwise, shouldn’t look to add women to the team simply to tick off their diversity box and appear inclusive. They should invest in women to strengthen businesses, improve decision-making processes, and bring new perspectives that can powerfully shape companies.
We shouldn’t need to have a day dedicated to talking about women as they should be equal to men in all ways. However, this is the moment we are in – a moment where there is a need to Break the Bias.