Women in the security industry: We’ve made progress but how can we continue to make more

cybersecurity, cyber crime

Article by Ralitsa Miteva, Manager of Digital Identity and Mobile Security, OneSpan

Over the past decade, significant progress has been made when it comes to women in leadership roles in the security industry, as well as closing the gender gap.

There are more women working in the industry and leading the fight against fraud than ever before. It is estimated global technology firms, on average, will reach nearly 33% overall female representation in their workforces this year. However, while this is a step in the right direction, there’s still considerable work for technology companies and their security teams to do to increase female representation and make the industry more appealing for women.

Technology remains a heavily male-dominated industry, as women are still largely outnumbered by men in leadership roles with women holding less than 25% of these roles in the industry. Ultimately, this comes down to a lack of female leaders and mentors, gender disparity in STEM jobs, and insufficient STEM education. Additionally, while there have been remarkable efforts to address the gender pay gap in the industry, there is still a long way to go. As we’ve seen over the last century, especially around the gender pay gap and dismantling gender stereotypes, it takes time and continuous action to see meaningful change.

Many women still feel that they need to take extra steps to be recognised for the work they do and the value they add. While it’s great to have initiatives such as International Women’s Day, we need to celebrate the work that women are doing in the anti-fraud sector (and all sectors) year-round. Women need more opportunities and visible role models leading the anti-fraud efforts in technology organisations, as well as pay that’s equal to men to encourage more women into the industry.

How the industry has evolved over the last 10 years for women

While it’s still more difficult for women to get into security positions than it is for men, it’s considerably easier than it was 10 years ago. Over the last decade, we’ve seen a shift in attitudes towards women working in tech. Before, it was still widely believed that women were less technical and not suitable for a career in tech.

What’s more, there was an extremely small number of women in STEM education or pursuing technical degrees, which meant that there wasn’t a high number of women in the pipeline for tech jobs. Despite the increase of women working in the sector, there are still significantly fewer women in leadership roles. More needs to be done to address the barriers to entering the industry and getting into leadership roles so that women have the same chance as their male counterparts.

Why do we need more women in leadership roles?

A lack of visible female role models in the anti-fraud space only reinforces the perception that pursuing a career in tech isn’t for women. Having more women in leadership roles will help to encourage more women to consider technology as a viable career path as well as boost women’s visibility and representation in the space.

However, this shouldn’t just fall on the shoulders of female employees, organisations have a crucial role to play too. To help more women get into leadership roles, organisations must ensure they are giving their female employees the opportunity to progress and thrive in their careers as well as work harder to promote more women to leadership roles, so they too can have a seat at the table.

Giving women the recognition that they deserve

In addition to attracting more women to the industry, it’s equally important that organisations are recognising the great work of their female employees, so they feel valued and seen as critical members of the organisation.

It’s also important to network as much as possible and build a rapport with more senior members of staff, who have a strong internal influence within an organisation. Establishing these kinds of relationships can often help with promotions and getting women the recognition they deserve. Another way for women to be recognised is to gradually build their profile as industry experts that people go to for more information on a given topic – knowledge is key. Whether that be following industry news, doing active research, listening to podcasts, participating in customer meetings, reading analyst reports and papers or watching documentaries.

The technology industry as a whole and security has a lot to offer women, but their contribution needs to be shouted about more often. There’s not a simple solution to fixing the gender gap and empowering women in the workplace but having visible female role models as well as supporting organisations that help women to achieve their full potential will go a long way to making these industries more appealing for women.