It’s no secret that women are underrepresented in tech. Although numbers are slowly creeping up we still only comprise 26% of the industry. The reasons why are myriad, ranging from a lack of visible role models, to fewer women choosing STEM subjects at degree level, to gender bias in recruitment. Are we missing out? Without doubt.
Take cybersecurity for example, one of the fastest growing industries in tech and a highly sought-after tech skill in the UK. A recent government study on recruitment in this sector confirmed that demand for specialists continues to outstrip supply. Their findings indicated a shortfall of 10,000 people a year. With an average competitive salary at around £62,000 a year, there are therefore plentiful opportunities for progression.
Still, women make up only 25% of those working in the field but, it’s never too late to make a change. In fact, the scope of the industry and the broad range of candidates required makes cybersecurity a great option for women seeking a new career.
Here we look at the top five reasons you should consider a switch to cybersecurity.
1: Cybersecurity wants you
The goal of a more diverse workforce is one that the tech industry is actively pursuing. This is of particular concern in the field of cybersecurity where the realisation that women are underrepresented and urgently needed has led to the launch of a range of initiatives. These include education programmes, training, networking events and mentorship opportunities.
Aside from the potential gains in filling vacancies, recruiting more women is essential for the industry to continue to grow. Women can bring a broad range of experience and technical skills. One ISC2 report illustrates that women in this field tend to be more educated than their male counterparts with the potential to reach higher positions. In addition, many of us also possess so-called ‘soft skills’ that can make teams more effective.
Jane Frankland founder of the IN Security Movement, says:
“Women see risk in a different way to men. Women are very accurate in terms of risk management…we are highly attuned to risks, and we can spot anomalies very easily.”
She adds, “If we’ve got hackers who are profiling us, they’re basically modelling it on men because the majority of the industry is male. So when we have more men, if there has been an attack that has been written purely for a male receiver, then a woman will be able to spot that more easily.”
2: Cybersecurity offers variety
Women are often dissuaded from pursuing a career in this field due to negative perceptions, ranging from the stereotype that it is the domain of ‘nerds’ or ‘hackers’ to the belief that it is elitist.
But while the popular image of the hooded analyst persists, there are scores of other roles involved, from marketing to incident response to forensics. What’s more, you don’t necessarily need an engineering degree or knowledge of coding to get started.
Cybersecurity is a concern across almost every industry, meaning skills gained in previous careers can often be transferred. As Priscilla Moriuchi, director of Strategic Threat Development at Recorded Future explains, tackling ever-changing security threats requires a huge variety of experience and personalities.
She highlights, “We need people with disparate backgrounds because the people we are pursuing – threat actors, hackers, ‘bad guys’ – also have a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences.”
3: Retraining need not involve time out
While a degree in a STEM subject will serve you well when applying for roles in cybersecurity, a lack of one should not be a deterrent.
An accredited ‘cyber bootcamp’ will equip participants with training in areas such as ethical hacking, security analysis, penetration testing and network defence, over a 12–18 month timespan. Many of these courses can be completed remotely online making it easy to gain a qualification without compromising on other commitments.
Alternatively, some firms are willing to take career-changers on as juniors and allow them to complete their training on the job. Tech security expert Carlota Sage believes better recognition of transferable experience is key to improve access to the industry and build a more diverse workforce.
“Leaders should hire women who may not be experienced in cybersecurity and then train them,” she says. “Leadership skills transfer across any industry. If they are curious and passionate, they can learn cybersecurity or any field. Leaders just have to be willing to invest in them.”
4: Scope for great work-life balance
A global study of female STEM graduates highlighted common concerns around pursuing a career in cybersecurity. The top three priorties for women in choosing a job are; contributing to society; earning a high salary and having a good work-life balance. However, 37% of those surveyed thought cybersecurity was a field where achieving that balance would be difficult.
But these perceptions are not necessarily accurate. Debby Briggs, chief security officer at Netscout Systems Inc, says it is a common misconception that cybersecurity demands long hours and a fixed work schedule. She recommends cybersecurity as a career option for women, “who may have gone the non-traditional route and got degrees later in life or who have taken time off to raise children and want to come back to work.”
Many jobs in cybersecurity can be carried out remotely, allowing for homeworking, and the 24-hour nature of security means the typical working day can often be rejigged to fit around family schedules.
5: Never a dull moment
As one of the fastest growing industries in the UK, you won’t suffer from a lack of options to progress your career in cybersecurity. In fact, many of those working in the field state the pace of the work, the challenge of solving problems and the plentiful career opportunities as some of the biggest attractions of the industry.
Cybersecurity encompasses everything involved in protecting personal information, intellectual property, data and information systems from theft and damage. This means it is important work that can offer a high level of job satisfaction.
The ever-evolving nature of security threats means few days are the same as teams work to stay on top of developments and problem-solve ways to tackle crime. What’s more, keeping on top of new technologies and a changing online landscape is a key element of any cybersecurity role, providing ample opportunity for learning and career advancement.
It may involve a shift in mindset to picture yourself changing to a career in cybersecurity. But with so many potential benefits there’s no question that for the right candidate it could prove the best decision they ever make.