NEWS + ADVICE
Joining the Ranks: Women in Cyber Security
The cyber security industry is filled with countless employment opportunities, but it lacks diversity when it comes to an equal representation of women in its workforce. If you’re a woman just starting out in security or you’re considering making the move, know that you’re welcome and wanted. As diversity fosters innovation, women stand to better the security community by joining the ranks in the fight to protect and defend.
Cyber security isn’t limited to coding or the notorious image of a guy cloaked in a hoodie. In reality security is much broader. It encompasses a wide range of roles and skillsets that are needed to make an organization secure and successful. From physical security to privacy, risk management and more, there is room for professionals with a variety of experiences to contribute to the security field—and we need everyone we can get to address the ever-increasing cyber threats we face.
Crunching the Numbers
The cyber workforce has been growing at a rapid pace. Within the last six years, the number of posted cyber security jobs has grown 94%1. However, the proportion of women in these new roles hasn’t noticeably increased. Since 2013, the percentage of women in the global cyber security workforce has stood stagnant at just 11%, according to research from (ISC)2 and Frost and Sullivan2.
Luckily we are starting to see this 11% figure expand. Recently, Cybersecurity Ventures predicted that women will account for more than 20% of the workforce by the end of 20193. Furthermore, (ISC)2 asserts that women now represent 24% of the cyber security workforce, having adjusted their data to account for IT professionals with security tasks4. Even though these numbers are starting to rise, we still have a wide gap of opportunity for more women to join the industry.
Security Needs Diversity
Diversity has largely become a buzzword used by organizations across all industries, but it remains crucial to innovation nonetheless. Without a variety of perspectives from people of different races, genders, ages, educational backgrounds, and experiences, we hinder ourselves from finding the best solutions and innovative ideas. This is especially important when facing sophisticated cyber threats, which can ultimately impact all of us on a global scale. Thus the need for women in cyber security is about more than equal opportunities for men and women—it’s necessary to successful security.
Making the Switch to Cyber Security
This need for diversity also exemplifies how people from different educational and professional experiences have a place in cyber security. There isn’t one set path that determines how to enter the security field. Many professionals active in the community come from a wide array of backgrounds, including IT, music, and non-technical fields. And these different skillsets are key to expanding perspectives. You might take an unconventional route to your career in cyber security, but know that you bring valuable skills that are transferable. The perspective you bring to the table paired with a willingness to learn will take you a long way in security.
Even if you majored in security there will likely be specialized skills that employers ask for that you don’t have yet. No single program can prepare you for everything. So don’t worry about being an expert day one. It takes time to cultivate your expertise with on the job experience, continued education, and ever-growing professional development.
If you’re pursuing a cyber security degree or are gearing up to make the transition from another field, the way you position your resume is vital. Read these insights to help you craft a resume that will help you get a cyber security job with no direct experience.
Setting up for Success
To successfully begin your cyber security career you’ll need to develop needed skills and build an industry network. A great way to start is by attending conferences in the security community. Meet people doing the work you’re interested in, learn something new, and participate in capture the flag competitions. Find out what aspect of security interests you and learn everything you can. There are so many different roles to pursue in cyber security, but you have to decide what you want to go for. Is there something that combines your existing interests or skillset? What’s enjoyable to you?
If you want to be a pen tester, take the initiative to practice by making a home lab. Take an online course, go to Google, YouTube, Cybrary, or listen to cyber security podcasts. Wherever your interests lie, set yourself up for success by testing the waters and getting a feel for what you want to do. Then it’s up to you to make the transition and learn the additional skills you need to do the job.
Climbing the Ladder
While we hope for a day when women are inherent to cyber security, the women currently active in the workforce are paving the way for future generations. Though men outnumber women by three to one, “more women are joining the field – and they are gunning for leadership positions.”4 With higher levels of education and more certifications, women are reaching high-level positions at a rate higher than their male counterparts.
Though technical skills and education will always have great value, it takes more than a long list of skills and experiences to truly be successful in your career. If you want to climb the corporate ladder you need to be able to advocate for yourself and think strategically. This means presenting your accomplishments and sharing your ideas with your manager. Anticipate problems and propose solutions—bonus points if you can foresee an issue and advise management before they find that problem themselves. You might start in an entry-level position, but showing your initiative and dedication will help you progress to greater levels. If you continue to seek new challenges, you will continue growing in your career.
While you pave the way for your career in cyber security, have confidence and be kind to yourself. Find a mentor to help guide you, take support where you can find it, and encourage others along the way. We are often our worst enemies, but remember that your voice matters—it may be the important perspective that was missing from the big picture. With a predicted shortage of 1.8 million cyber security workers by 20225, your voice is greatly needed.