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National Cybersecurity Awareness Month: Women in Cybersecurity

2015-10-14 16:45

There has been an increased focus in the media on the gender gap in cybersecurity. In case you haven’t heard, you can read about this problem more here, here, and here.  The 2015 (ISC)2 Global Information Security Workforce Study quantified the disparity, revealing a security professional scarcity in general and an alarming decrease in women in cybersecurity – down to one-in-ten. With such an imbalance in the supply and demand equation, we cannot afford to lose ground. This is one of many reasons HP Security Research partnered with Applied Computer Security Associates (ACSA) on the Scholarship for Women Studying Information Security (SWSIS) in 2014. HP commited to bring more women into the industry by pledging a quarter of a million dollars in scholorahips for women. We’re also backing that up by offering internship opportunities at HP to add practical experience to the classroom education. 

 

Bringing new women in to the workforce is critical, but so is retaining those that are already here. Yesterday, I participated in a thirteen city radio tour in an effort to raise awareness and offer solutions to both of these issues. If you missed it live, here is our HP Newsbreak version.

 

I also offer my perspective in this blog and would love to hear your perspective via Twitter. Let me know what you think by referencing  @joot_ or @thehpsr and using the hashtag #SWSIS.

 


In the last two years, we’ve seen some of the largest data breaches to date resulting in millions of people with credit card and other personal information stolen. The bad guys continue to grow more sophisticated – turning their skills into big business. This means threats are not going away, they are getting “scarier”. We aren’t doing enough to protect ourselves, resulting in a lot of work to be done in security and a growing need for smart people to do it.  We do ourselves a disservice if we don’t focus on the most under-served population of candidates. Those of us in cybersecurity seem to know this, and (as evidenced in recent media stories) the general public is learning this. So why aren’t women flocking to the opportunities in this field?

 

One problem I see is that we don’t speak much of what a career in cybersecurity actually looks like. If you don’t know what a career looks like, it’s so much harder to recognize it as a career path. Most women don’t realize many of the skills they have now can translate into this field. We need to raise the visibility of all career options within cybersecurity – not just the flashy hacker-types portrayed by some in the media. There are a wide variety of skills needed and a career in cybersecurity can be as broad as you can imagine. Cybersecurity calls for talents including engineering, public policy, law, compliance standards, privacy, application development, communications, project management, analytics, and the list goes on and on. Find your passion and go do that thing. While women currently represent only 10% of the cybersecurity workforce, it’s not always an episode of Mad Men. To those thinking of cybersecurity as a career, I would say: find what you’re passionate about, make it yours, and bring it here. We need it all to combat the bad guys.

 

To those of us here, and to those of us fortunate enough to manage these incredible minds, we need to retain them. It’s on us to recognize our own biases and keep them in check. Don’t assume the woman with a family isn’t just as passionate and willing to spend extra hours on a career-making project than her male counterpart. Ask. Pay them what their skill-level and accomplishments demand in the market regardless of gender. Given a level playing field, women aren’t any more likely to leave the industry than the men. In a nutshell: Challenge. Communicate. Compensate. We can do this.


 

While this is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, rest assured HP Security Research (HPSR) is focused on cybersecurity every day of the year. Come check us out, and join in the fight.

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