Last year was the first time companies in Great Britain had to disclose their gender pay gap figures. Whilst efforts have been made to reduce this gap and make a positive step forward in gender equality, four in ten private companies are reporting a wider gender pay gap in 2019 than they did last year.
The cybersecurity industry in particular – which is already tackling a major skills deficit – is one of the industries hardest hit by a lack of diversity. There will be up to 3.5 million job openings by 2021, yet currently women make up only 20% of the cybersecurity workforce.
As we celebrate International Women’s Day tomorrow, I want to encourage women to consider working in the information security sector to make the skills deficit a thing of the past.
STEM industries can be difficult environments for women to pursue and create successful careers. International Women’s Day is significant for the global STEM community, and specifically the cybersecurity sector. It provides us with both a moment to reflect upon the outstanding work which women have already done, and a point to review our progress toward the future we want, where it should be as easy for women to make a mark in the sector as it is for men.
Sadly, recent events are not driving progress. Cyber specialists have warned that the sector's reputation is putting promising students off a career in cybersecurity. Additionally, this month marks the anniversary of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, a sign that there is a desperate need to increase the maturity of the sector.
The UK government has also acknowledged the importance of tackling gender disparity in information security. Initiatives such as the GCHQ’s CyberFirst Girls competition are very positive, and as part of a coordinated approach by government and communities to initiate culture change, they can be highly effective tools. We are also seeing mentoring and school visits by women in STEM careers, as well as many ‘grass-roots’ groups such as Women in Tech, which encourage women to get together to improve their prospects, share successes and learn from challenges.
The need for cybersecurity talent will continue to grow over the next few years, as businesses protect themselves against an increasingly sophisticated threat landscape while having to comply with legislation such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which came into effect last May.
Many factors have led our sector to where it is today, and a lack of diversity has certainly played its part. Going forward, those working to solve these problems will encourage apprenticeships and lateral movement within organisations; but lasting success will lie in shifting cultures and developing innovative approaches to inclusivity.
Women may be under-represented in security today – but they can play a critical role in bridging the skills gap. This International Women’s Day, let us celebrate what we have achieved, and let us plan what is yet to come – a bright future for women to share.