After a quick online search, it is easy to find numerous and somewhat shocking facts about female workers within the cyber security industry. Namely, a study conducted by the Centre for Cyber Safety and Education on Women in Cyber Security found many disconcerting statistics, including:
Now many questions are raised – what is it that creates these significant gender disparities, and why are women so underrepresented in the cyber security industry?
It is interesting to note that this wasn’t always the case. During World War II, hacking was actually a female dominated profession. Women comprised 75 percent of the workforce at Bletchley Park, the central site for British code-breakers. However, since it was Alan Turing who cracked the Nazi’s Enigma Code, it is sometimes forgotten that three-quarters of these workers were female.
If we look at the current landscape of the industry, it is difficult to believe that once upon a time it was predominantly women working in cyber security. Not only are they underrepresented, but underpaid; women working in this industry tend to be more highly educated compared to their male counterparts yet still earn less.
The good news is that steps are being taken to reduce these inconsistencies. In April 2018 the UK is introducing a new law that will require all companies with more than 250 employees to publish their gender pay figures. This transparency is likely to encourage companies to address any current gender wage gaps. Hopefully this will prompt women who notice any unfair disparities to ask for salary increases, and will highlight the fact that the gender pay gap is still a pressing issue in our country that needs to be combated.
With many government backed schemes promoting cyber security as a career path for the younger generations, we should hopefully see more and more take up of computer science undergraduate degrees being achieved by young women in the upcoming years. This educational shift could lead to an increase in women working within the technology industry. Only time will tell the extent of the impact, but this may dramatically change these technical male dominated professions – namely cyber security.
It is clear there is still lots of work to be done to decrease these gender inequalities within the cyber security. However it is positive to learn that things might be slowly changing. There are many ways in which companies can encourage this move. To start, executives should proactively determine if their organisational culture is one that encourages and values women, or permits behaviours that intentionally or unintentionally deter women from joining and succeeding in the cyber security profession.
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