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Cyber careers and women

Most young women in Europe, Israel, and the US have already decided against a career in cybersecurity before they turn 16. This, according to a new study by an IT security product company, is a major contributing factor to the industry’s continued struggle to attract female recruits, as it attempts to both narrow the gender gap in IT security and also address the growing skills shortage.

Earlier this year, the research firm Frost and Sullivan predicted there would be a shortfall of 1.8 million cybersecurity professionals by 2022. The Global Information Security Workforce Study (GISWS), by the analyst firm on behalf of (ISC)² and its Centre for Cyber Safety and Education, recently found that the situation is exacerbated by the fact that women comprise only 11 per cent of the current cybersecurity workforce. Now, the cybersecurity company Kaspersky Lab has released the findings of a new study, seeking to understand why so few women are choosing the sector.

Cybersecurity’s image among young people needs a revamp, claims Kaspersky Lab, if the industry is going to start encouraging more women. The study found the terminology generally associated with cybersecurity roles – such as ‘hacker’ – is considered to have negative connotations and is unlikely to appeal to young women, two in three of whom say they want to pursue a career they are passionate about instead. A third of young women think that cybersecurity professionals are ‘geeks’ and a quarter think they are ‘nerds’, perhaps also contributing to the fact that 78 per cent of young women have never considered a career in cybersecurity.

The study found that there is a perception problem around cybersecurity careers, and that this, plus the fact that young women are making their career choices at such a young age, is making it difficult for the industry to encourage women into the sector.

Adam Maskatiya, General Manager at Kaspersky Lab UK and Ireland said, “We are part of a fast-growing and energetic sector, but there are simply too few women in the workforce. Unfortunately, it’s clear from our research that young women do not perceive cybersecurity to be a viable or attractive career option for them, and they are therefore deciding to pursue different options at a young age, making it hard for us to persuade them otherwise.

“Helping women to develop the right skills at an education level certainly has an important role to play in overcoming barriers to entry, and a lot of previous reports into STEM subject uptake have discussed this at length. But we believe there’s also a need to change the industry’s image as a whole, and promote the careers within. An important part of that process is making the roles more visible and more enticing, and debunking the stereotype of IT security geeks sitting in a dark room hacking computers.”

With 42 per cent of young people agreeing it is important to have a gender role model in their careers and half of women preferring to work in an environment that has an equal male/female split, Kaspersky Lab is calling for more female role models from the industry to step up to the task of promoting cybersecurity careers. For the 12-page report, Following whose lead? A study into why women are not entering cybersecurity; click here.


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