The shortage of women in cyber security
Why is this?
Lots of intelligent people have talked around this subject, and there still isn’t much of a consensus as to why this is. I very much doubt that I’ll be the one to solve it. Of the limited skills I possess, solving age old social issues isn’t one. However, there are various factors that should be considered.
For example, cyber security makes up part of the vast sector that can be defined by the vague term ‘IT’. In 2018, a mere 7% of tech positions were held by women in Europe. So naturally, being a small wedge in the cheese of IT, it’s not surprising that cyber security is lacking in women.
This image keeps popping up whenever people discuss cyber security and, in some ways could go on to explain the shortage of experts in general. It’s not a positive image. It hints at something vaguely sinister and ‘nerdy’ and fails to highlight the fact that anyone can earn good money through a rewarding and legitimate career in cyber security.
We’re focusing on the wrong thing
At this point, I should address the fact that being a man myself, waffling on about the industry being male dominated may seem counterproductive. So, in order to get a better view of it, I spoke to Sarka, a Manchester based penetration tester, to get her thoughts on the issue. She has cofounded InfoSec Hoppers, which hosts quarterly meet ups for women working, or interested in working in cyber security. Their aim is to encourage women in cyber security to talk about their work, attend conferences, and encourage greater diversity in what is a vibrant field.
Sarka says, ‘I think the whole wave of attention to less women in tech has put attention on the wrong side of things. We, as an industry, are lacking skilled professionals full stop.’ Which is certainly true. It’s said there will be a shortfall of as many as 3.5 million vacancies in cyber security by 2021.
Sarka goes on to say, ‘The issue I see is the vicious circle of needing experience just to get experience. I see so many people from my community that can’t find jobs because of this, and that’s the real issue with our industry now. It should be about skills and not gender.’
If we can alter the image of the cyber security professional from the basement dwelling, anti-social anarchist to something more palatable, then more people might develop an interest.
More people will generally mean greater diversity. If we then go on to provide more entry level opportunities that don’t require an incredibly detailed CV, then that interest can be developed into a bona fide security expert.
Not just penetration testing
The notion of ‘hacking’ becoming intertwined with the idea of cyber security is also problematic. Too many people think the only job available in cyber security is penetration testing or bug hunting. Not everyone likes the idea of becoming a hacker, but that doesn’t mean cyber security isn’t the industry for them. The truth is there is a huge variety of jobs, such as SOC analysts, DPOs, network architects, digital forensics and more.
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