The field of cyber security is not only currently lacking both numbers and talent, but also exhibiting a massive gender imbalance. Statistics show that only 11 per cent of the global IT industry workforce is female and with such a large gap between the male and female ratio in the industry, campaigns have been mounted to encourage more women to enter the cyber security field.
I am part of the small percentage of women in cyber security; and for as long as I can remember, I have always been part of a minority within information technology. Ever since my secondary school days, I was either the only female, or one of a very few, in the classroom environment – and this trend has continued into my university life. With every industry day I attend, or cyber security exhibition, or educational course – the lack of female representation in the room is very noticeable. There is constant talk of how more women are wanted in cyber security, but, some may ask, why do we want more women in cyber security?
Historically, there has been a lack of female representation in the technology and STEM sectors, but times are changing – and with the advance of technology and the increasing needs of the technology sector, more and more women are entering the field.
However, only a small proportion of female students currently studying for a degree are planning to enter a career in technology – for a number of reasons: There is the risk of entering a heavily male-dominated environment, the isolation one may experience as a result , and the strict culture and stereotype of the typical cyber-geek, to name just a few. However, I, and many others, have grown to accept the fact that we may be the only females in the room, and with time and experience we have learned to persevere and combat these stereotypes.
Cyber security is a field where many diverse skills are needed, far beyond the typical cyber-geek tapping away on a keyboard. There is now a great variety of roles that can be offered to someone entering the field. With the range of roles available today and the number of diverse skillsets needed, a wide variety of suitors should be considered – including an equal ratio of males and females.
It is an accepted scientific fact that the male and female brain have their own unique characteristics. The male brain tends to be more analytical with more logical cognitive processing and systematic thinking. The female brain is known to be more empathising, more capable of understanding and better at relating to another person’s emotions and thoughts. While both traits and functions are great on their own, the combination of both skills can be used to increase the overall success of a cyber security workforce.
Cyber security is not only reliant on the success of technical roles: most security vulnerabilities derive from human error. To gain an understanding of how to increase the security of a device, one must understand the end-user. Most large firms and companies are fall victim to some form of social engineering, hence the psychological factors of cyber security are growing ever more in importance. With women exhibiting a deeper understanding of psychological factors and the behaviours of individuals, not only can their technical skills be put to great use, but the psychology of understanding how a person works can be used to advantage.
So to answer the question why we need females in cyber security, the answer is simple: We need the diversity! Not only to support a healthy workspace ecosystem, but to utilise all the available talent to increase the capabilities and success of our cyber workforces.