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The women in cybersecurity conference is coming up. How are women doing in cybersecurity?


CyberSecurity Ventures estimate that due to the ever-encroaching nature of the online criminal activity, losses due to cybercrime will amount to a staggering $6 trillion a year by 2021. Furthermore, thanks to companies having to fortify their online security defences, there will also likely be 3.5 million vacant cybersecurity jobs by this time – but these jobs, it seems, very few women are attracted to.

Global gatherings such as WiCys Women in Cybersecurity are critical to analysing and fostering global uptake of jobs in the field. The conference takes place in Chicago on March 23 and 24 to address ways to inspire, recruit, advance, educate, retain and invest in women in cybersecurity. This initiative, comprising of industry, academic and government partners, has been going from strength to strength since its inception in 2013.

New security legislation opens up more cybersecurity jobs

The demand for cybersecurity experts has been on the rise, and not only because of an increase in cybercrime. Key policy shifts, such as the GDPR, which is set to affect the whole of the European Union and all entities providing goods or services to residents of the EU, amplify the statistics on why urgent increased company spend is going towards cybersecurity.

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) replaces the existing 1995 privacy laws and provides one set of data privacy rules for all member states. As companies work to implement the new rules, which come into effect in May 2018, there seems to be a chronic shortage of professionals able to assist. Non-compliance will attract hefty fines of €20,000,000 or 4% of an organisation’s total worldwide revenues.

The matter of these jobs not being filled is compounded by women representing only 20% of the global cybersecurity workforce in 2017. Earlier reports had cited this figure at 11%, so there has been marginal movement. However, the goal should be having women take up nearly 50% ten years from now, if these jobs are to be filled.

Why is there a gender gap in cybersecurity?

The issues are fairly complex. Security Intelligence reports that ​across disciplines, six percent more women than men enter the job market with master’s degrees, but it is only now that more than 50 percent of women under 29 are holding undergraduate computer science degrees globally. This shift is significant. It represents a change from an era where men were more commonly associated with technical degrees such as engineering technology or computer sciences degrees. It remains to be seen if this increase in women who have studied technology and engineering will impact even more women, and have them reach key positions in cybersecurity. If not, it means that perceived barriers remain dangerously in place.

According to Forbes, such barriers include a lack of opportunity for advancement to executive positions, workplace discrimination and lack of awareness of career links in the cybersecurity ecosystem – for example, law, product design, business strategy and implementation.

Why gender diversity matters

Diversity is important if all-encompassing solutions are to be found; the kind of solutions that come from a more diverse pool than the current 80% male quotient. The field needs female input so there is a mix of various skill sets, a diversity of thought and approaches, and multidisciplinary approaches to problem solving.    It is clear that what is required is, simply put, a necessary inclusion of “other” thought dynamics – that which has previously been systematically excluded – to help predict, analyse and solve. One only needs to draw parallels with the legal and medical professions of bygone centuries, and the critical scope and depth of this subject matter are better understood.

With that in mind, initiatives such as the Women in Cybersecurity conference are welcome and should be supported.

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