At the time of writing this article, March was coming to a close, and so too was Women’s History Month. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem that we’ll be putting an end to the ongoing battle for gender equality in the workplace anytime soon – and we’re finding that this is especially true in cybersecurity. So true, in fact, that new research shows women make up only 11 percent of the information security workforce. This number has remained stagnant since 2013 and is particularly stunning given that the cybersecurity workforce gap is expected to reach 1.8 million by 2022.
On March 15, Veracode teamed up with the Center for Cyber Safety and Education™ (the Center), the Executive Women’s Forum on Information Security, Risk Management & Privacy (EWF), (ISC)2, as well as other industry leaders, to release the biennial 2017 Global Information Security Workforce Study: Women in Cybersecurity.
At a glance, additional key takeaways from the Women in Cybersecurity report include:
- Women have higher levels of education than men, with 51 percent holding a master’s degree or higher, compared to 45 percent of men.
- Fewer women hold positions of authority (director level or above) compared to men.
- Women working in cybersecurity have a more varied educational background than men contributing to a diverse set of skills they can potentially bring to the industry.
- On average, women in the information security industry earn a lower annual salary than their male counterparts.
- Fifty-one percent of women in the cybersecurity industry in North America, Latin America, and the UK have experienced some form of discrimination, compared to only 15 percent of men.
- Women who have higher levels of access to sponsorship and leadership programs report feeling valued in their role and are more likely to be successful.
Needless to say that the findings of the research, which was conducted by Frost & Sullivan, are discouraging. In some cases, it feels a lot like we’re taking two steps forward and one step back. For example, women who are in upper-level management roles saw the pay gap close slightly, from $6,020 in 2015 to $4,540 in 2017; while women in non-managerial roles saw the gap slightly widen, from $4,310 in 2015 to $5,000 in 2017.
And somehow, in 2017, we still have a discrimination problem – whether an employee is experiencing discrimination because of their gender, ethnicity, or other factors. In cybersecurity, 51 percent of all women have experienced discrimination, and that only increases the higher she climbs on the corporate ladder. Indeed, 57 percent of female middle managers/directors, 65 percent of executives, and 67 percent of C-level executives report having been discriminated against.
There is a lot to unpack and to be highly concerned about. But there is also a little glimmer of something that gives me hope, and that’s what the study uncovered about how and why women feel valuable in the workplace. And what kind of Millennial would I be if I didn’t bring it all back to the well-being of my own generation in the workforce?
Hear me out.
Millennials are taking on security positions with those cybersecurity degrees they’re earning (52 percent of women under the age of 29), and organizations are constantly trying to figure out the best way to work with and maintain Millennial talent (at last check, one-in-three American workers are a Millennial). The Women in Cybersecurity report backs up the recent findings from Deloitte that mentorship/sponsorship, non-technical skill development, and leadership training go a long way to making women feel valued in the workplace. According to the 2016 Deloitte Millennial Survey, 63 percent of millennials think their leadership skills aren’t being fully developed, and those keeping their employer in their five-year plan are twice as likely to have a mentor (68 percent).
In my career, I’ve worked for and with some of the smartest, strongest, and most passionate female leaders. In the last three months, I’ve watched these women and women all over the world come together to fight for equality and to protect those who may be at risk. That glimmer of hope that I spoke of comes from the fact that I know that women can – and do – support other women. They can and do lift one another up so high that absolutely anything is possible. Women in cybersecurity can and do mentor and support other women in their field of interest. We just need to make sure that men are on board, paying it forward too.