To Better Fight Attackers, Get Women in Security and Close the Gender Gap

The cybersecurity industry is in an arms race, and the top resource in demand is talent. Experts predict a shortage of 1.5 million security positions by 2020. In the face of an increasingly large and talented network of cybercriminals on the Dark Web — with more and more joining every day — this is a shortage that we as an industry can’t afford.

Security has evolved into a core issue for business and society, costing the global economy $445 billion annually. No longer are just current computer scientists and researchers being enlisted to fight expanding cybercrime rings. The next generation of security workers will have to step in, and they need to possess a broad set of skills and fill roles ranging from product designers to risk consultants and policymakers.

To truly defend against attackers, our industry needs to equip itself with the best and brightest. This means getting women in security. Currently, women represent only 11 percent of the security workforce. Recruiting and fostering more women in security presents an enormous opportunity to fill the growing talent gap, as well as bring to bear a more diverse set of skills to fight against new threats.

Closing the Skills and Gender Gap

As security professionals, we must take an active part in driving this change. Today, I’ll be speaking at New York University’s Symposium on Women in Cybersecurity, which is aimed at educating, training and encouraging more women to join the security workforce. By teaming up with such an esteemed academic institution, we’re focused on building awareness of the opportunities that exist in security for women of all backgrounds: from high schoolers deciding on a career path to seasoned professionals in other industries who have acumen that can be put to use in security.

Partnering with educators to attract a diverse workforce is critical, but the collaboration to solve the skills gap can’t end there. Security education, such as advanced training on technologies and strategies to fight modern-day threats, must evolve to keep up with the ever-accelerating pace of attackers.

Getting Women in Security

To that end, IBM recently launched new university programs with the Rochester Institute of Technology and Temasek Polytechnic in Singapore to prepare students for careers in security through hands-on training with IBM tools in new, cutting-edge security research and operations centers. Working with advanced technologies such as analytics and threat intelligence will help burgeoning security professionals learn how to think on even greater levels than the most successful cybercriminals. They’ll also prepare to collect and analyze data on emerging global attacks to uncover and stop them before they inflict damage.

Attracting a more diverse workforce and equipping educators with modern training and tools are two key stepping stones to overcome the security skills gap that is crippling the industry in the fight against cybercrime. All security providers must be committed to helping overcome these challenges and build the cybersecurity workforce of the future.

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Shelley Westman

Vice President of Operations and Strategic Integration Initiatives, IBM

Shelley Westman is Vice President of Operations and Strategic Integration Initiatives at IBM Security. In this role, Shelley is responsible for overall business operations as well as key projects and strategic initiatives across the Security Business Unit. Shelley also leads the University Programs for IBM Security and is involved in several IBM boards and committees on hiring and skills. Shelley is the founder of “WISE” - Women in Security Excelling.