March 8, 2021 By Dimple Ahluwalia 3 min read

Cybersecurity Help Wanted

Those of us who work in the cybersecurity field continue to witness the capabilities of adversaries outpace the profession’s ability to protect their organizations. Compounding this issue is limited resources, including a lack of skilled professionals.

As the tech industry has forewarned for decades, the need for a bigger and better security workforce just keeps growing. Right now, there are three million unfilled cybersecurity positions globally.

To bridge this widening skills gap, to combat the onslaught of determined bad actors and, ultimately, to meet one of society’s most pressing challenges, it’s up to industry leaders in public and private sectors to prioritize the recruitment of women into cybersecurity jobs.

Diversity Matters

Studies have shown that teams with equal numbers of men and women are more likely to experiment, be creative, share knowledge and fulfill tasks. Any business would benefit from this kind of diversity. But in the cybersecurity trade, where men now make up 72% of the workforce, diversity is essential, and it’s why recruiting more women into this field ultimately will not just bridge the skills gap, it will give organizations a competitive advantage.

Why is a lopsided composition detrimental in cybersecurity? When a single culture designs a solution, often that solution works for users of that background — but it might not work for other communities, genders or age groups. Having a mix of women and men on a team can even improve risk management, since the genders tend to look at risk differently.

The innovative thinking and collaboration that comes with a diverse security team are crucial to helping the industry overcome a new breed of hackers, who are also becoming more sophisticated, more diverse and more collaborative.

More than STEM

The need for cybersecurity staff isn’t the only thing that’s growing. The cybersecurity field itself has been steadily broadening beyond the technical skills required to find and stop threats. There are roles in cybersecurity that require so-called “softer skills,” like communications, behavioral sciences, economics and international law.

Those of us responsible for recruiting and attracting talent should remember the value of these core skills when evaluating candidates.

Having started my career in marketing, I benefitted from developing core skills that I continue to hone and apply in various positions in cybersecurity. I was fortunate since I was recruited into cybersecurity by a leader who recognized my aptitude for learning, breadth of experiences and attitude over my direct experience and qualifications in the field.

Call to Industry Leaders

Help build awareness, early.

Schools help teach our youth about the importance of staying safe online. You can take these efforts one step further to introduce the concept of helping protect society from threats. Have conversations with the girls and young women in your life — daughters, nieces, friends — about opportunities, skills and thrills of a cybersecurity career.

Partner Up.

Public-private partnerships are key in education and awareness. Non-traditional skills training programs supported by the tech industry can spark interest and open doors. Here are just a few examples:

  • Hacker High School is an internationally recognized free and open-source online, self-guided cybersecurity program for teenagers, sponsored by both companies and individuals.
  • The IBM Pathways in Technology Early College High Schools (P-TECH) are innovative public schools that offer training and associate degrees in cybersecurity.
  • Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) partners with CYBER.ORG, a not-for-profit academic development center, to provide free K-12 cybersecurity curricula and development for teachers.
  • In Israel, the Cyber Education Center identifies girls with an aptitude and desire to learn IT and helps them develop skills.
  • When a career in security is all but decided, the Cybersecurity Talent Initiative is a unique public-private partnership with the goal of recruiting and training a world-class cybersecurity workforce.

Be allies.

I credit my personal and professional growth to the strong women who are my role models and the men who have supported me along the way. The vast majority of men in cybersecurity can play a pivotal role as allies to both support their female colleagues and attract talent for a more secure tomorrow.

Through these steps, we can each do our part in helping to advance gender diversity and shrink the skills gap — for the betterment of security teams, organizations and a brighter, more secure future.

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