This month, we celebrate women all over the world. While there has been significant progress in empowering women over the years, many challenges still remain. One of these challenges is the lingering biases that limit women’s economic participation in a more secured labor market. In cybersecurity alone, there are more than 2.5 million job openings that women could fill if gender-limiting factors would be addressed.
In 2021, women made up only 25% of the cybersecurity workforce worldwide. This is far from equal. Why do the representations in the Cybersecurity industry need to be more equal, though? Aside from providing better opportunities for women, better representation of women in the cybersecurity workforce is also an advantage for the industry.
In every sector, the value of diversity is greatly recognized. A study from Cloverpop found that when a team is gender-diverse, their business decisions are better 73% of the time. Further, meeting the threats in cybersecurity requires understanding the ‘enemies’ who are coming from diverse backgrounds. After all, cybersecurity depends on the cybercrime tactics that are continuously evolving. In fact, the MIT Technology review described the struggle between cybersecurity and cybercrime as an innovation war. Hence, if the enemies’ innovations are empowered by diversity, the defenders should be similarly equipped by such diverse perspectives, insights, and experiences.
Why are there fewer women in the cybersecurity industry?
In spite of all these reasons highlighting the benefits of diversifying the cybersecurity workforce, why does the population of women in the field remain low? Microsoft Security conducted a survey to further understand this gender gap in the cybersecurity industry.
Study findings show that 83% of the respondents believe that opportunities in cybersecurity are available for women. However, only 44% of the female participants believe that they are represented sufficiently in the said industry. This lack of women representation could discourage more females from entering cybersecurity.
Biases also surfaced in the study. Many respondents believe that cybersecurity is not a traditional choice for women because females “get bored with computers” and “they are better caregivers’” and only some of them are really “interested in high tech.” These biases are shared even by women. Further, more men than women feel qualified for cybersecurity, and more women believe that men are a better fit for technology-related careers. These biases are the result of long years of socialization. In fact, 28% believe that parents are more likely to encourage male than female children to engage in technology-related careers.
How does Microsoft help encourage women in cybersecurity?
There is a great talent shortage in cybersecurity, with more than 2.5 million job openings. This shortage is straining the security teams. This deficiency could be resolved by helping women overcome the challenges in joining the industry.
Microsoft partners on multiple programs to encourage more females to join the cybersecurity workforce. These programs include the following: Girl Security, CyberStart America, Cybersecurity Converge Tour, Women in Cybersecurity, Microsoft Women in Security, Cyber Shikshaa, Microsoft DigiGirlz, and Elevate Initiative. Women could take advantage of these programs, which had been designed to support their participation in the cybersecurity industry.