The world is experiencing an enormous shortage in IT professionals who possess Cybersecurity skills. There have been many high-profile stories of companies having personally identifiable information (PII) stolen due to IT breaches. This coverage in the media has encouraged businesses to crack down on their own Cybersecurity measures. However, as the threats of malware and hacking increase on a daily basis, the industry is expanding at a rate that is far greater than the ability to fill Cybersecurity roles. Some companies are so desperate that they are even choosing to recruit ‘reformed’ black hatters. These are individuals that have previously been involved in hacking. They may be specialists in their field but are a risky employment option due to their past activities. ISACA’s 2015 APT study estimates that the financial implications associated with an individual cyberattack will cost businesses an average of £107 million by 2020. Therefore it is essential that the Cybersecurity skills gap is closed.
What is the role of women in closing the Cybersecurity skills gap?
The lack of females in the world of technology is a well-known problem. Although women make up 46% of the UK workforce, there is a serious imbalance of gender in the digital sector as only 15% of females work in the industry. Many see this untapped potential as being a solution to the Cybersecurity skills shortage. Employers are currently only able to access a limited talent pool when recruiting for their cyber specialist roles. Yet if a surge of talented women were given the opportunity to train in Cybersecurity, then recruiters would have a much larger quantity of tech professionals to choose from.
There needs to be a cultural shift in society’s attitude towards women in tech. The root of the problem lies at the school education level. Many girls are not interested in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects at school and don’t pursue it as a career. However, when it comes to Cybersecurity the problem is even worse - 77% of girls state that no teacher or careers advisor mentioned Cybersecurity as a career – for men it’s 67%. If children are not even aware of the niche of Cybersecurity, then it will of course be harder to attract either gender but especially women to train in these jobs. Tech UK in collaboration with WISE have created a resource pack designed for schoolgirls to assist them in learning about jobs within the tech industry.
However, the focus should not just be on getting school children into technology, but also on women who are returning to work. Many talented businesswomen take career breaks perhaps due to starting a family.
The B2W programme is the initiative of Tech UK and everywoman, It aims to - ‘connect forward-thinking organisations who are committed to gender diversity and talented female professionals who want to restart their careers in technology after taking a break of over a year.’
The two-day course will include stories from women returners in the technology industry as well as a panel session with recruiters.
The growth of the technology industry would also benefit from a shift in office culture to accommodate women who require a more flexible working role. Cybersecurity is the perfect niche for remote workers who can log on from a home environment. This would allow women the opportunity to participate in the Cybersecurity industry whilst achieving a work-life balance that would be acceptable to them.
Women should also be given access to existing mentors and role models in the technology industry, preferably within the Cybersecurity sector. It can be difficult for women to realise that there is a place for them in Cybersecurity when there is a visible lack of females to follow into the industry. Confidence training can also be offered as a way to overcome anxiety associated with joining a male-dominated sector.
The recruitment of women isn’t the only way to fix the Cybersecurity skills gap. Training for such a niche area of the technology industry is notoriously expensive. Entry-level courses can cost over £1000 but unfortunately due to the nature of security threats, the training becomes quickly outdated. If you already work for a technology company then your employer may be willing to regularly invest in your Cybersecurity skills training. However, entry-level candidates will rarely be able to afford to self-invest in qualifications without the promise of an impressive salary as a reward. Therefore it is necessary to create more apprenticeships for employees of both genders to gain experience in the industry whilst having their security tuition paid for.
The technology industry needs to catch up with other sectors in motivating females into niche areas such as Cybersecurity. However, due to the threat of hacking and security breaches, the entire Cybersecurity division needs an overhaul in attracting and retaining talent in order to stop companies from losing millions.
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