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Closing the gender gap in cybersecurity ‘could generate billions’

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

If the number of women working in cybersecurity rose to equal that of men, there would be a $30.4 billion boost to the industry’s economic contribution in the US and a £12.6 billion boost in the UK.

That’s according to a new report from Tessian, which also reveals that closing the gender pay gap, and equalising women’s salaries to men’s, could add a further $12.7bn and £4.4bn to the US and UK economies respectively. 

The report highlights the importance of encouraging more women into cybersecurity and identifies the barriers stopping this from happening. After surveying female cybersecurity professionals in the UK and the US, Tessian reveals that a lack of gender balance was far less of a barrier to entry in the UK, compared to the US:

·         82% of female cybersecurity professionals in the US believe that cybersecurity has a gender bias problem versus 49% of those in the UK. 

·         Just 12% of UK respondents say a lack of gender balance was a challenge at the start of their career versus 38% of those in the US.

·         US respondents were also three times as likely to believe that a more gender-balanced workforce would encourage more women to pursue roles in cybersecurity. 

The report sought to identify which other factors were discouraging women from joining the cybersecurity industry, and found that:

·         42% of respondents think a cybersecurity skills gap exists because the industry isn’t considered ‘cool’ or ‘exciting’. This opinion was most commonly shared by millennials – 46% vs. 22% of 45-54 year olds.

·         A lack of awareness or knowledge of the industry was the top challenge female professionals faced at the start of their career, with 43% citing this as a barrier.

·         43% of women said that a lack of clear career development paths was another challenge at the start of their cybersecurity career, while nearly a quarter (23%) cited a lack of role models.

·         Just 53% say their organization is doing enough to recruit women into security roles. 

Sabrina Castiglione, Senior Executive at Tessian said: “For organisations to successfully recruit more women into security roles, they need to understand what’s discouraging them from signing up beyond just gender bias. We need to make women in cybersecurity more visible. We need to tell their stories and raise awareness of their roles and experiences. And once through the door, managers need to clearly show women the opportunities available to them to progress and develop their careers.”

When asked what would encourage more women to consider a career in cybersecurity, over half (51%) said there needs to be more accurate representations of the industry in the media. Respondents ranked this as the number one way to encourage more women into cybersecurity, followed by a gender-balanced workforce (45%), cybersecurity-specific curriculum in universities (43%) and equal pay (28%).

In the report, Tessian interviewed Shamla Naidoo, former CISO at IBM who said: “To many people, cybersecurity equates to – and is limited to – someone in a hoodie bent over a keyboard in a dark room. That’s not the case at all. If we don’t expand beyond that, we’ll lose out on even more people in the industry.” 

In addition to huge economic benefits, there are other rewards for women working in cybersecurity. 93% of the women surveyed in the report feel secure or very secure in their jobs, with over half (56%) believing that cybersecurity is one of the most important industries today as cyber threats become more advanced. 

Read the full report and discover the stories of cybersecurity professionals at some of the world’s biggest organisations here: Opportunities in Cybersecurity 2020.