Women in Cybersecurity Face Obstacles to Hiring and Advancement, New Study Finds – The Story Exchange

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The most significant problem that women in cybersecurity reported experiencing was a “lack of respect,” including from their direct managers. (Cottonbro Studio, Pexels.com)

Gender inequality is a big problem in cybersecurity, even preventing women from starting and advancing their careers in the field.

That’s according to a new study from the nonprofit Women in Cybersecurity and DEI firm Aleria, which collected data from more than 1,000 employees within 20 organizations. Based on their findings, women working in cybersecurity were two times more likely to face exclusion than male employees. Professional cybersecurity women were also five times more likely than men to say that interference from managers and peers caused their career dissatisfaction and low levels of job performance. 

Women currently make up just 24% of cybersecurity workers, according to data from Gitnux, an independent market research platform. Aside from the gender gap, the industry has little diversity — only 9% of cybersecurity workers are Black, 8% are Asian and 4% are Latino. 

According to the recent study, the most significant problem that women in cybersecurity experienced was a “lack of respect,” including from their direct managers. Sexual inappropriateness, social exclusion, lack of recognition and requests to do menial tasks were also consistent problems women faced.

In another recent report by the software company Skillsoft, 35% of women in tech cite a lack of equity in opportunities and 38% report a lack of equity in pay. North American women in cybersecurity on average made $22,046 less than men working in the same industry, SC Magazine noted in 2021. 

These negative experiences may be the reason why about 37% of women working in the tech industry are considering leaving their company within the next year. 

That, of course, is a problem, as women in science and tech have contributed to monumental discoveries throughout history. Several Black women — including Dorothy Vaughan, Katherine Johnson and Mary Jackson (depicted in the 2016 film “Hidden Figures,”) — examined and analyzed complex data for NASA and played a critical role in the Space Race during the Cold War. And in 2011, the efforts of a group of female analysts known as the “Sisterhood” helped the CIA to track down and kill one of America’s biggest terrorists, Osama bin Laden. 

Studies consistently show that having more women in the workplace benefits not just women, but everyone. Research from the Center for Creative Leadership shows that increased female representation in the workplace leads to more job satisfaction, more organizational dedication, and more meaningful work along with decreased levels of burnout for people of all genders. 

Despite the present hurdles for women in cybersecurity, their representation in the industry is expected to rise — jumping from around 25% in 2022 to 35% in 2031, Gitnux’s data finds. 

Experts say companies and the cybersecurity industry can do more by committing to diversity and establishing mentorship programs, among other steps. And women in cybersecurity can navigate the barriers by seeking mentorship and allyship from both men and women, building a strong personal brand, and continuing their education and completing certifications. 

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