- With a lack of available cybersecurity talent on the horizon, more organizations need to address diversity in the workforce and boost the number of women in technology, according to Loretta Early, CIO of The George Washington University, speaking Wednesday at a campus event dedicated to women in cybersecurity. To grow the pipeline, the introduction of women to technology should start at a young age.
- One of the key issues is that "you can't be what you can't see," said Early, highlighting the need for young women to see other women interested in technology. Whether it's movies like "Hidden Figures" or role models in the field, young women need an opportunity to see their older counterparts thriving in technology. This could help change the belief that computers are just a tool for men, as they were first marketed.
- There is a perception that people, especially women, aren't good at math and science, helping cultivate a fear of STEM, according to Dr. Ebonése Olfus, VP of cyber operations at Envistacom LLC, speaking at the event. But cybersecurity doesn't require "hardcore" math and science skills, she said. Instead, people trying to enter STEM fields need to focus on what they "can" do, not their perceived limitations.
The numbers are well known: Women make up just 11% of the cybersecurity workforce. The glaring lack of women in the field also directly ties into the glaring lack of security experts available in the market. There are approximately 300,000 open cybersecurity positions, but that number is expected to quickly rise as more organizations demand talent.
By 2022, experts predict the number of open cybersecurity jobs to reach 1.8 million.
Sure AI, automation and advanced analytics are seen as security's savior, but high-powered alerting tools can only take the industry so far. Computers can do the leg work, but human experts are still required to take action on potential incidents and respond to quickly protect an organization.
So what is the security industry to do? Well, it has to do what every other STEM job is tasked with: bucking the perception that technical and highly analytical jobs are for men. The industry has no hope of closing the skills gap by relying on a purely male workforce. Encouraging women to enter the field will go a long way in creating a pipeline of experts.
The best way to help fill the gap is to start early. Whether it's the Girl Scouts or cyber boot camps, experts can work to promote a tech-based career earlier in young women's careers.
A key barrier is many women aren't shown paths to enter into the security realm. But a key takeaway from the panel is that no two careers are alike and an array of skill sets are needed in the cybersecurity sector. Whether someone has a background in disaster response, IT or entered the field by accident, their skills can be put to use.