The fact that there are so few women in the cybersecurity industry is not news to anyone. This has been a problem for years, but recently, it has become a popular topic in parallel with the increasing interest in the profession.
It’s common to think that as cybersecurity becomes a more well-known career, the gender gap that has existed would begin to level out, but that has not been the case at all.
While, as reported, the number of women in the industry increases every year, it is not happening quickly enough. At this rate, it will be another 20 years before the number of female professionals in the cyber world represents as much as the number of men.
When you think of the cybersecurity industry, what comes to mind? The most common is:
- Are you a hacker?
- So, do you stop the bad guys?
This perspective is a direct result of the perception of cybersecurity and why women may not be seeking jobs in the field.
The lack of female professionals in cybersecurity is the result of various factors:
Perception: incorrect impression of the profession
Gender bias: due to a lack of awareness about the profession and encouragement to pursue it.
But where does this come from? That’s easy. Everything around us.
This holds true for how the cybersecurity industry and jobs are perceived.
Think about how cybersecurity professionals are portrayed in the media. A solitary man in a black hoodie, right?
This assertion is far from reality. Regardless of gender, this is not the look of cyber professionals. They certainly aren’t sitting in a dark room typing away on their keyboards all day.
Are the media impacting how we perceive a career in cybersecurity?
In general, for the media, people who work in this field tend to be men. While gender stereotypes are a thing of the past, color stereotypes are still heavily used when it comes to marketing and design.
Most marketing materials and images related to cybersecurity jobs, products, etc. tend to align with a masculine color scheme.
This can lead women to perceive a career in cyber as such: a male profession.
In many cases, images portray them with lines of code, which can lead people to conclude that programming expertise is a requirement for a cybersecurity career, which is not true.
Programming is generally associated with mathematics and engineering, or STEM careers.
Why does this matter? Women are less likely to obtain STEM degrees (read our blog on how to get more women into STEM careers here). There is already a preexisting gender gap in STEM program enrollment, and since programming skills are perceived as a requirement, many women may assume they are not qualified for any position in the industry. This, along with other representations of technology and cybersecurity in the media, goes against our efforts to close the gender gap in the industry.
Gender bias resulting in lack of awareness and encouragement:
Another factor contributing to the lack of women in the industry is gender bias that leads to a lack of awareness about the cyber profession or a lack of encouragement to pursue that path. This is a problem that exists not only in the cyber industry but generally for all STEM careers.
We are not where we need to be when it comes to attracting women to the cyber industry. We need to work to change the perception of cybersecurity. A job in the industry does not equate to a solitary lifestyle dedicated to writing code on a computer. It’s time to get rid of the images of mysterious hooded individuals and endless lines of code.
There is much more to cybersecurity roles than meets the eye, and it’s important for girls and women to know that there is a place for them at the table.