What is the cybersecurity world without gender diversity?

cyber securityNiamh Muldoon, Senior Director of Trust & Security at OneLogin

According to a survey by the Centre for Cyber Safety and Education, there will be 1.8 million unfilled cybersecurity jobs by 2022.

It seems organisations are struggling to find the talent needed to overcome the serious lack of security staff to deal with the ever-growing threat landscape.

In the cybersecurity industry, women are outnumbered three to one by men according to an (ISC)² Report.  However, the imbalance in cybersecurity has improved since 2017 when only 11 percent of the workforce was female, but despite this increase women still only account for about one quarter (24 percent).

So why does the cybersecurity industry lack diversity in gender to make it more inclusive?

Simply complying with HR

For a cybersecurity company to be successful, it is vital to have a diverse and inclusive workforce that can relate to customers. By addressing the lack of diversity within a business, not only will it help the cybersecurity industry, but also gives teams a wider bank of perspectives to draw on.

Organisations need to look at new ways of working to facilitate a more gender-diverse and inclusive workforce, for example by being more flexible, running sponsorship and mentorship schemes plus training. Looking outside the traditional cybersecurity skill set, could also help to bridge the diversity gap, offering career progression will bring in different expertise to the security team.

For organisations to create a truly diverse and inclusive environment with a highly performing team, a radical change in mindset is needed.

Sponsorship is key

Women at the top of the career ladder need to send a clear message to other females and young talent that they can aspire to take on leadership roles and this is where sponsorship is so important.

Sponsorship sets the tone from the top of the organisation with the development programmes for women aspiring for a career in cybersecurity or aspiring to further their career in cybersecurity. A programme that captures technical, business and professional competencies, skills and provides opportunities to demonstrate competency and skill growth. Having a career sponsor also provides valuable support to excel and grow.

Organisations still struggle to understand and implement sponsorship, this is what’s slowing down businesses to create highly performing cybersecurity teams fostering a diverse and inclusive environment.

Women are less likely than men to have ever asked for the benefits or recognition they deserve. And this is where sponsorship truly comes into play. By offering a sponsorship program opens up the ability to be able to accommodate the needs of a diverse and inclusive workforce, for example, offer maternity leave, childcare and time to study. These issues need to be addressed to make cybersecurity an industry where a diverse and inclusive workforce thrives.

Diversity discrepancy and its opportunities

The diversity, especially gender, imbalance in cybersecurity provides a unique chance for women to break into a new industry and utilise a situation where bosses are keen to promote equality.

There is a lack of visible female role models for young women interested in careers in technology and security. This imbalance can only be addressed through investment, especially in sponsorship programs, to encourage a more diverse and inclusive workforce to enter the technology industry. Organisations should look at scholarships, internships, and giving their successful female cybersecurity professionals a larger platform to share their experiences.

Make cybersecurity the career of choice for all 

Cybersecurity as a career needs to be promoted and made visible at global level starting with schooling. Governments need to incentive it and CEOs need to sponsor programs.

The advancement of sponsorship and mentorship schemes, that create an open channel for concerns to be raised and experiences shared, could revolutionise diversity in cybersecurity. Investment in STEM subject scholarships and internships for young talent could be the key to inspiring a new generation of young women into storming the cyber industry and redressing the gender imbalance.

About the author

Niamh MuldoonAs Senior Director of Trust and Security, Niamh Muldoon heads up OneLogin’s new EMEA headquarters in Dublin, Ireland, her passion for security is obvious, having dedicated over 21 years of her life to it, she is now an imperative part of OneLogin’s international expansion.

Her outstanding career has seen Niamh put ‘Women in Ireland’ on the global international map for Information Security when she qualified as Ireland’s youngest CISSP -Certified Information Systems Security Professional- in 2004. She then went on to be the only Irish woman nominated in the first Women in Technology awards in Europe in 2015 and was instrumental in bringing the Women in Technology awards to Ireland in 2018.