The shortage of women in the cyber security industry is a well-discussed topic. With at least one article a month disclosing the significant under representation of women in the security field, many practitioners are left questioning the reason for this challenge.
In a recent report, Claire O’Malley highlights the unnerving prevalence of sexism towards women in the industry. O’Malley spoke to a number of female cyber security professionals and they reveal how they were taught to “manage, deflect and defend against this behaviour”. Despite being an effective short-term solution, this is certainly ineffective in the long-term, and in no way prevents such occurrences from happening again.
On top of this, Frost & Sullivan’s 2017 white paper revealed that over half of female cyber security professionals around the world have experienced one or more forms of discrimination. These range from unexplained denial or delay in career advancement to exaggerated highlighting to mistakes or errors.
Firms need to address issues of sexism head on to recruit and retain female employees. This means evaluating current cultures, biases, and policies which may cause female employees to feel undervalued and uncomfortable.
With women only comprising an estimated 11% of professional cyber security workers, the playing field is far from equal. The industry is making enormous strides, but it needs to change its recruiting and retainment efforts to better the workplace for women and all employees as it fills the millions of open jobs.
In order to boost both recruitment and retainment, companies need to adopt different approaches. Look less towards the ‘cookie cutter replacement’ of the predecessor of a specific vacancy and think about seeking talent elsewhere. Be prepared for change, and even consider hiring internally if there is an eligible candidate willing to learn. It is Important to avoid the checkbox approach, the right candidate for the role may lack certain skills or qualifications at the time, but is willing to learn and develop on the job.
“Diversity of thought isn’t something the cybersecurity industry can be successful without,”
“Why would you eliminate the brilliance of 50 percent of the population?”
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