Expert Insight: Breaking the glass firewall: Building a cybersecurity sisterhood

It’s no secret that the gender gap in cybersecurity is a worldwide issue, with women currently representing only 24% of the global cybersecurity workforce. This gender disparity can be coined as a ‘glass firewall’ – cybersecurity’s version of the glass ceiling – with barriers ranging from cultural biases to limited advancement opportunities that several women face while climbing the cyber ladder.

This reality is disappointing considering cybersecurity is an incredibly rewarding career for all, and with the global skills shortage within the industry, women can play a vital part in plugging the gap.

The power of mentorship

Being a woman or a minority group in cyber can be isolating and discouraging. That’s why it is so important to have mentors and role models; people who have already paved their way in the industry can offer support for those entering and guidance along the way.

Setting up mentoring programs on a formal basis within your organisation is a good place to start. This applies to all employees, not just women. Cybersecurity is a complex and dynamic field that requires constant learning and adaptation. Whether you are a beginner or a seasoned professional, having a mentor who can guide you is invaluable.

However, for women, it’s particularly important to have someone in your corner to provide confidence, encouragement, a sounding board for ideas, and more.

These mentors don’t necessarily have to be women; your counterparts also have a crucial role to play in supporting gender diversity. By offering support, opening doors to opportunities, and actively advocating for their female colleagues, they can be great mentors and facilitators for a more inclusive industry.

Mentorship can extend beyond formal arrangements to include informal guidance and support networks within professional communities. For example, mentorship can be sourced through social channels by finding fellow women in the field or role models. Connecting on platforms like LinkedIn, Discord servers, local events (I.e. BSides), and scrolling through ‘following’ lists can grow your community by uncovering like-minded professionals.

Having mentors will also attract more women into the industry, as the absence of female representation or male counterparts showing support often dissuades women from entering the industry.

Clear progression and guidance

Women also need to feel that a career in cybersecurity will enable them to progress to senior levels. So, alongside a greater representation of mentors and women as managers and executives, organisations need to offer support for career development.

This includes asking women already within the workforce about their experiences and taking accountability for mapping career progression for women. It also involves offering leadership training and development programs specifically tailored to women in cybersecurity.

Cross-training opportunities, networking events, and workshops can all play a role in ensuring women feel valued in their careers and can see investment in their futures.

Creating a generation of cyber women

While there are things that can be done in the workplace to encourage more women and create a more inclusive environment, there’s a bigger issue here – cybersecurity needs to be made more accessible in schools and at an earlier age.

Often, girls aren’t aware of their options in cybersecurity because they aren’t exposed to the opportunities from a young age.

Businesses and governments can play an active role here in increasing this visibility. For example, the UK Government launched The CyberFirst Girls Competition, aiming to inspire girls aged 12-14 interested in technology to pursue a career in cybersecurity. This is just a small step and a great initiative, but others should follow suit.

It’s also key to highlight the diverse nature of cybersecurity careers and debunk stereotypes. Cybersecurity is not just about sitting behind a laptop and coding; it’s an incredibly rewarding career protecting some of the world’s biggest institutions. There are also so many different elements to cybersecurity, from policy to risk management and communication.

This broader perspective can attract a wider range of talents and interests among young women. We should be instilling a sense of excitement and curiosity about cybersecurity from a young age to cultivate a generation of children who are not just tech-savvy consumers but also budding cyber professionals.

Enterprises, the education sector, and governments need to act now. Getting more women into cyber will benefit the entire sector, not only because of the 4 million skills gap but also because diverse teams are more successful.

Having more diverse voices in the room is crucial to ensuring everyone is equally protected against cyber threats. Our readiness depends on the teams working behind the scenes, and without a diverse team, we will miss opportunities.

The time is now to build a generation of cyber women.

The post Expert Insight: Breaking the glass firewall: Building a cybersecurity sisterhood first appeared on IT Security Guru.

The post Expert Insight: Breaking the glass firewall: Building a cybersecurity sisterhood appeared first on IT Security Guru.

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Author: Charley Nash