Why We Need More Women In Cyber Security

I have been blessed to work with female programmers and cyber security professionals. As a consequence I did not realize the magnitude of the gender gap in these professions. I’m including programmers and software professionals here because that’s what brought this to my attention, but, as I will explain below, the gender gap of women in cyber security is by far the greater.

A blog post or tweet recently pointed me to this article at the Huffington Post on the gender gap in technology. According to the article, “The gender gap in technology is vast. In 2013, just over a quarter of computing jobs were held by women — a percentage that has actually decreased since 1990. “I had to read that three times before I was sure I had read it correctly. This is in spite of an emphasis in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education, particularly in the US. According to Girls Who Code, “In middle school, 74% of girls express interest in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM), but when choosing a college major, just 0.4% of high school girls select computer science.” Why is that number so small? Is it poorly-taught math classes and the fear of more math in college and beyond, or is it something else?

The cyber security profession is worse than the average according to a 2013 report from (ISC)2. They report that, “women represent just 11% of this profession” – and that is for the profession in private industries located in developed countries worldwide.

women represent just 11% of this professionMy perception of gender in the cyber security industry has been based on colleagues with whom I work and with participants I see in Learning Tree’s System and Network Security Introduction. That view is clearly somewhat distorted.

I think this situation needs to change. I would say “change quickly,” but that isn’t realistic. New entrants to the field need to be recruited (at the college or professional level) and trained. That takes time. Professional courses such as Learning Tree offers can help, but university-level education can be especially valuable in this profession. I will talk about skills needed by cyber security professionals in an upcoming post.

My point this week is straightforward: we need to encourage more women to enter the cyber security field and the computing field generally. I’ve worked promoting STEM education at our local charter school, but I know I need to do more personally. I also hope to magnify my efforts by asking readers of this blog to make efforts in this area, too.

US high schools and their international equivalents often have computer clubs, many universities have chapters of the Society of Women Engineers, and there are undoubtedly other such organizations and clubs. We can help support these groups help teach computing skills to these groups and others.

I’d like to hear some specifics of how this industry can eliminate this gap. Seriously. I look forward to your comments below.


To your safe computing,
John McDermott

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