Bookmark and Share

From high-profile data breeches at big companies like Sony Pictures, Apple, and Target, to the thousands of small businesses that have reported cyber attacks, the vulnerability of the growing amount of digital data has become a national crisis. In order to combat this growing crisis, companies are investing in new security systems and recruiting qualified teams to create and monitor these systems. With this increased job opportunity, could the industry begin to see more women in cybersecurity than it has to date?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs as network systems and information security professionals are expected to grow by 53 percent through 2018. However, although women currently comprise more than half of the U.S. professional workforce, they only play a small role in this field. In fact, the Women’s Society of Cyberjutsu (WSC) recently reported that women represent only 11 percent of the world’s information security workforce.

The small representation of women in cybersecurity is a big opportunity for them to enter a field with a severe labor shortage. More than 209,000 cybersecurity jobs in the U.S. are unfilled, and postings are up 74 percent over the past five years, according to a 2015 analysis of numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics by Peninsula Press, a project of the Stanford University Journalism Program. Demand for cybersecurity talent is expected to rise to 6 million globally by 2019, with a projected shortfall of 1.5 million, says Michael Brown, CEO at Symantec, the world’s largest security software vendor.

An Opportunistic Time for Women in Cybersecurity

According to Audrey Gendreau, Saint Leo University’s assistant professor of computer science, it is a very opportunistic time for women in cybersecurity because there is a dire need for women’s perspectives in well-rounded cybersecurity teams. Security experts in the Department of Defense have told her that this is the case, but the challenge is raising awareness about the importance and nature of cybersecurity to young women who are currently choosing careers.

Women in Cybersecurity (WiCyS), an online community for women in the field, has been generating interest among students and professionals to consider cybersecurity as a viable and promising career option. The organization says that women represent an excellent resource for filling and diversifying our current and future needs for the cybersecurity workforce.

Many believe that both men and women bring value to the cybersecurity table. Men cut across emotions, and they have a completely different way to communicate and handle conflict. Women, on the other hand, clue into the emotional piece. This emotional awareness, as the Department of Defense has pointed out, is an important factor when anticipating the next move of an email hacker.

Women in Cybersecurity Profiles

The women who are currently engaged in the cybersecurity profession have had a lot to offer to many of the world’s top organizations. Take Heather Adkins, a 12-year Google veteran and founding member of the Google Security Team. As manager of information security, Adkins has built a global team responsible for maintaining the safety and security of Google’s networks, systems and applications. The Google Security Team, now numbering in the hundreds, is involved in every facet of the business, including launching new products, mergers and acquisitions, building security infrastructure, and responding to security threats.

As the executive director for the Department of Homeland Security CyberSkills Management Support Initiative, Renee Forney manages cybersecurity-related projects for the acting undersecretary for management and leads department-wide cybersecurity workforce programs involving workforce analysis, recruitment, retention, training and pipeline development. Forney also facilitates outreach engagements with academic institutions to offer students at all levels insight into the unique volunteer and professional cyber opportunities.

Blair Taylor, Ph.D., is a clinical associate professor in the department of computer and information sciences at Towson University whose research interest lies in secure coding and cybersecurity education. The National Science Foundation and the National Security Agency have funded her projects, which include security and secure coding modules for integrating security across the undergraduate computing curriculum.

As senior manager for threat research with Hewlett-Packard Security Research, Jewel Timpe leads the teams responsible for developing and driving the overall threat research strategy in the domains of malware and information security research. Her focus includes operationalizing security research, developing trend analysis, and building world-class research teams. Timpe was drawn to her current position for the opportunity to work with the best security researchers in the world to positively impact the security of both consumers and enterprise customers.

Calling All Women

Numerous programs exist in high schools and communities across the country to help high school girls learn about cybersecurity, gain experience and enhance their college applications. For college grads, professionals in other fields and IT workers interested in crossing over to cyber, there are several organizations and programs devoted to women in cybersecurity:

Cybersecurity has become an important, lucrative professional path that also offers solid job security, and if you make the decision to go this route, you get to fight the bad guys and protect not only critical information but also people. With a huge workforce shortage and ideal role models already in place, it is an arena where women can continue to increase their numbers and offer invaluable insight to companies, government agencies, and academic institutions across the nation.