Why we need more women in cybersecurity

It has been estimated that more than 1 million security jobs worldwide are unfilled. Further, (ISC)2 reports that of the currently employed cybersecurity professionals, women represent only 11 percent of the workforce. The unfilled cybersecurity jobs aren’t just a staffing issue; they’re a matter of national security, and women can help us solve the problem quickly.

Our current need for women in cybersecurity is no different from when we needed women to work in what were then considered to be stereotypically male roles during WWII, a topic I wrote about and have been speaking on this past year. In fact, I feel so strongly about this subject that in 2015 I founded the not-for-profit #brainbabe, where our mission is to empower more women and men to join the cybersecurity profession by raising awareness about behaviors that are holding us back and by providing a training framework for entry-level cybersecurity roles for liberal arts graduates.

Download 93-Page ReportHPE Cyber Risk Report 2016

We are again in a time of war—this time cyber war—and our adversaries know we are understaffed. We have to solve this talent shortage as fast as possible. Our best option is to dramatically increase the amount of women we recruit into the technology and cybersecurity fields immediately. Here is my thinking on how and why.

Better messaging

So how do we do this? The answer lies in better marketing. We are doing a poor job of marketing and selling these roles to young women. We need to educate youth—particularly female youth—about the fact that cybersecurity jobs cover a vast and diverse amount of positions. It’s true there are some jobs in cybersecurity that require computer science skills and computer programming or networking engineering skills. But employment in a position with those requirements does not mean you have to wear a hoodie and code all day or be stuck with wires and cables. Today, cybersecurity is chic in the real world, while in media it’s still depicted as dark and weird. We need to change that for our young women and men, because the negative stereotypes and miscommunications are hurting everyone.

Rethink the job requirements list

Additionally, and more importantly, there’s the fact that a great number of cybersecurity jobs require more interpersonal skills than technical ones. They require analytical thinking, teamwork skills, communication skills, and leadership skills, all of which can be learned in fields other than technology. In my experience as a leader in staffing, these are the types of jobs at which women excel, and so we must promote these jobs in detail. They’re sexy, fun, high-income jobs that don’t all require software-coding skills. Today roles such as C-suite, director, manager, cloud robotics, analyst, GRC, compliance, privacy, finance, product management, and many others can all be found in the cybersecurity field.

I discussed this in my 2016 RSA Conference talk, “From Pigtails, to Prom, to a Cyber Career: What About Your Daughter?” Many of the open positions we will need to fill in 10 years are roles we don’t even have names for yet because of how fast the Internet of Things (IoT) is changing technology. Alec Ross, the former advisor to the secretary of state, discusses this in his book The Future of Work and has also discussed this on CNN.

Giving back: Lessons from my career

As someone who majored in liberal arts, I can speak firsthand about how wonderful being in the technology and cybersecurity fields over the last 21 years has been. I lucked out when I stumbled upon two serial entrepreneurs who believed that I and many others with nontechnical backgrounds could be trained to understand technology and cybersecurity. As a 22-year-old college graduate with a double degree in sociology and criminal justice, I was quickly trained to be successful in technology and cybersecurity, and my career has been amazing. I have traveled the US and the world, lived in great cities such as Boston and Los Angeles, built strong relationships with people, and added value to major initiatives that created jobs and wealth for individuals.

To spend my late 30s as the CEO of a technology company and then my 40s as the founder and CEO of a cybersecurity software and services company has been an incredibly positive experience. Women with the same type of drive, smarts, and talent are out there right now waiting for the cybersecurity community to find them.

Cybersecurity needs you!

We can’t leave the security of this great country to chance. We need a major shift in how we market cybersecurity jobs, and we need a massive commitment to training within our organizations. Our schools are slow to push these careers, so it’s up to all of us in the technology and cybersecurity communities to get the word out while they catch up.

Read TechBeacon's list of 20 women in InfoSec to follow on Twitter.

Download 93-Page ReportHPE Cyber Risk Report 2016
Topics: Security