IT has long been a mainly male and sexist profession, and within IT, cybersecurity is even more male-dominated. However, female respondents to a new survey suggests some progress in changing men’s attitudes.
In a survey released today of 200 women in the cybersecurity field (100 each in the U.K and the U.S.), 53 per cent of respondents believed there is a gender bias problem in cybersecurity. By contrast, 66 per cent of respondents in 2020 agreed there was a gender bias.
The survey, released today as part of International Women’s Day, was conducted this year for cybersecurity vendor Tessian. Its author described the survey results as “progress.”
Interestingly, nearly half of the women surveyed said the COVID-19 pandemic crisis affected their careers in a positive way.
That may be in part because, according to the survey report, the cybersecurity sector is relatively unaffected. The overall job market has contracted globally, but 72 percent of survey respondents said their cybersecurity team hired at least one full-time person last year.
Perhaps, as a result, it’s why 89 per cent of the respondents said they felt secure in their jobs.
“The women in our report have spoken; cybersecurity is an industry to build a thriving career, even in a global pandemic, and the younger generation recognizes that it’s important,” said Sabrina Castiglione, Tessian’s chief financial officer and acting head of talent. “So now we need to show more women and girls how they can explore the opportunities available to them.
“Greater awareness in schools is critical, but businesses, too, can help build a more diverse talent pool for the future through initiatives like hiring more diverse candidates at junior levels and developing them into senior roles and creating platforms for role models to share their stories. We won’t solve the gender gap overnight. But acting now and playing the long game will have enormous benefits – both for businesses and society.”
The survey of women in the industry was conducted for Tessian by Opinion Matters to survey 200 female cybersecurity professionals. Survey respondents occupied various roles, including CISO, network engineer, security architect, incident response, penetration tester, security analyst, software developer, data scientist, risk & compliance, and security operations.
Equal pay would help
Another question asked the female practitioners what they think would help encourage more women into cybersecurity roles. Equal pay topped the list (47 per cent), but it was closely followed by more diverse role models (44 per cent), a gender-balanced workforce (43 per cent), and more apprenticeship programs (41 per cent).
Separately, 1,000 18-25-year-olds (both male and female, and in the U.S. and the U.K.) were questioned about their interest in the field.
While many described cybersecurity as “interesting” and “important,” just 31 per cent said they would consider a job in the field. Men were almost twice as likely than women (42 per cent compared to 26 per cent) to say they would think about it as a career. But there’s hope, says the report.
“The majority of recent grads don’t seem to have a strong preference either way. Nearly half (45 per cent) just aren’t sure whether or not cybersecurity is for them. When asked why many were worried that they didn’t have the skills they’d need to thrive. Others weren’t sure how to navigate a career change.
“That means there’s work to be done,” the report concludes. “To make the industry more appealing, we have to first make it more accessible by painting a clear picture of what the work actually entails and how to break into the industry.”