Women in Cyber Security: Why We Need Them and How To Attract Them
Once upon a time, malicious email attachments and lone hackers were the bad guys that kept good techies up at night – but in this new decade of fast evolving technologies and coordinated attacks, the cyber world has become more complicated.
No doubt you’ve heard, that cyber security is one of the fastest growing sectors, with no signs of slowing down anytime soon. And in the last few years, we’ve witnessed a massive investment in the industry. A report by DCMS reveals that UK’s cyber security industry is now worth an estimated £8.3 billion. This has been fuelled by an increase in diversified threats coupled with several high-profile cyber-attacks on the UK public sector (think NHS and WannaCry).
But while the investment surges and the general public are becoming increasingly aware of cyber threats - professional cyber security skills are lagging behind. With more than half of British firms reporting a cyber-attack in 2019 – the number of trained cyber security professional is simply not keeping up with demand. A government report published in 2018 revealed that more than 50% of UK businesses have a “basic technical cyber security skills gap”.
How Can We Attract More Women Into Cyber Security?
One major problem is that women represent only 11% of the cyber security workforce. This means one of the biggest issues facing the tech sector is that it simply isn’t utilising or even appealing to half of the population! This lack of diversity means less available talent to help keep up with mounting cyber threats.
An estimated 3.5 million jobs are expected to remain unfilled globally by 2021. So, not only does the cyber industry need women, it is also an incredibly lucrative career for women.
But the tech and cyber sector, in particular, has a bit of an image problem when it comes to diversity and women. The negative stereotypes of lone men holed up in dark rooms contributes to this issue, so how do we tackle this along with the other barriers?
Develop Inclusive Roles and Environments
Being inclusive means making roles and work environments accessible to everyone. The starting point for this is job descriptions. With many misconceptions persisting about what roles in cyber security actually entail, recruiters need to use language which addresses the entirety of what the role requires.
Valuing non-technical strengths as well as technical will encourage women who demonstrate leadership qualities such as collaboration, building relationships and decision making to apply for a role.
A big step in creating a more inclusive work environment for women in tech is to highlight strong female role models in the industry. Showing support for women who have crossed the gender divide will inspire more women to follow in their footsteps. Mentoring schemes are also effective platforms to help women identify their strengths, areas for development and provide a supportive atmosphere.
Spark Interest Early
Recent initiatives have been encouraging more girls to take up STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) subjects in school. The organisation "Code First: Girls" offers free part-time coding courses for female and non-binary young people across the UK.
However, there are still very few girls who opt to do pure tech or computer science related subjects at school – with only 5% choosing Computer Science at GCSE and 1% taking A-Level Computing. We need to make cyber security and technology roles accessible by challenging misconceptions and providing clear career advice and options.
So, whether you’re a woman who wants to launch herself into an exciting new career in a fast-paced sector or an employer who wants to diversify their talent and workforce, here are our top 3 reasons why the future for cyber is female.
1. Job Diversity
As threats become more diverse, there is a need for more diverse teams. Solving cyber security issues involves multi-tasking and a strong capacity for problem-solving. Tackling vast technical issues requires creative thinking from people with different perspectives. So, becoming part of a more gender-balanced cyber team is a productive way to avoid unconscious bias and build a variety of solutions to complex problems.
The cyber security profession is not limited to just one type of job. From investigative forensics, developing incident response strategy to advising big companies - there are opportunities in different settings which require distinct skillsets.
2. Greater Flexibility
One of the critical barriers for female progression in the workplace is the lack of professional flexibility. With the childcare responsibility still predominantly placed on women, a rigid work setting can create obstacles for women who want work-life balance but also want to climb the corporate ladder.
With much of the work in the cyber industry occurring online, many roles in cyber security are suitable for flexible working patterns and there are also many opportunities to work from home.
3. Reducing the Gender Pay Imbalance
The average salary for a cyber security analyst is £51,200 and a career in cyber security can lead to a salary upwards of £70,000. So, not only is getting started in the cyber security industry a financially rewarding career path (especially when skills are in such high demand) but better representation is also a way for women and employers to help reduce the gender pay gap.
Having a more diverse cyber security team is good for everyone and it’s far more valuable than just a box ticking exercise for diversity quotas. Research shows that diverse teams produce better business outcomes. With more women in cyber we can increase the potential talent pool and develop a more robust workforce to address the growing cyber threat of the new decade.
How apprenticeships can help!
Apprenticeships are an effective way to develop a diversity of talent to address the cyber skills gap and challenges of the future. Apprenticeships also provide an opportunity to work within the cyber and tech industry in a supportive environment - by combining a real job with part-time learning.
Completing a Cyber Security Apprenticeship qualification is the first step to securing your ideal role in the cyber industry. As a leading tech and apprenticeship training provider, escalla wants to encourage UK industries to recruit and train more women as cyber-security apprentices.
For employers, hiring an apprentice is great for business. They bring diversity, motivation, adaptability and are full of fresh-thinking! Investing your levy in cyber security apprentices offers a long term solution for cyber issues. It is a practical and cost-effective way to ensure that you have the right talent at the right time to defend your organisation against cyber-attacks.