Women’s Progress in Cyber-Security Stalled Over Past Two Years: Survey

A survey shows that women's participation in the cyber-security industry has leveled off at 11 percent, much lower than their overall participation in the global workforce.

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Women's participation in the cyber-security industry stagnated over the past two years, leveling off at 11 percent, which is much lower than women’s overall participation in the workforce, according to a biennial study published on March 15.

The report, The 2017 Global Information Security Workforce Study: Women in Cybersecurity, found that upper-level management positions were four times more likely to be given to men, while more than half of women have encountered workplace discrimination.

Salaries narrowed at the upper management levels, but at non-manager levels, the salary gap has widened with women making 6 percent less than men.

The imbalance is particularly noteworthy as Frost & Sullivan, the author of the report, estimates that there will be a shortfall in cyber-security workforce of 1.8 million people by 2022. To solve the problem, companies have to work harder at mentoring and training women, Joyce Brocaglia, CEO of Alta Associates and founder of the Executive Women's Forum, told eWEEK.

“Clearly, the effort has to start at the top,” she said. “It is something that requires commitment and investment. It is not something that is going to happen without a cost.”

The survey was published by the Center for Cyber Safety and Education and the executive Women’s Forum on Information Security, Risk Management & Privacy in conjunction with the International Information System Security Certification Consortium, (ISC)2.

Women faced differing headwinds, depending on the region in which they work and live. Women in North America made up 14 percent of the cyber-security workforce, while they comprised only 7 percent of the workforce in Europe and 5 percent in the Middle East.

When it came to workplace discrimination, 51 percent of women encountered some form of discrimination, compared with only 15 percent of men, Lynn Terwoerds, executive director of the Executive Women's Forum, told eWEEK.

“You have a significant portion of women who feel that their opinions are not valued, and you have 51 percent who have experienced some form of workplace discrimination, and on top of that, they are paid less,” she said. “That is a pretty bad trifecta. In the end, companies have to have the organizational will to do something about it.”

Overall, women are as prepared, if not more prepared than many men for positions in cyber-security. Women tend to have a higher level of education than men, with 51 percent having at least a master’s degree, which is 6 percentile points more than men.

Yet, they often have degrees outside of engineering or computer and information sciences, with 56 percent of women having an undergraduate degree in one of those technical disciplines, 14 percentile points fewer than their male counterparts.

Instead, a greater number of women focused on business studies and social science, the survey found.

To make the workplace more equitable, companies need to end discrimination, close the pay gap, create more inclusive workplaces, develop mentoring and sponsorship programs to encourage leadership in women, and value all educational backgrounds, the study stated.