Has COVID-19 unlocked womens’ potential in cybersecurity?

COVID-19 has been devastating to many sectors, but not cybersecurity were women are feeling more assured in their roles than ever before. But more work needs to be done to get women into the industry

As women working in hospitality and retail have suffered during COVID-19, some have dubbed the pandemic era a “femcession“. But in cybersecurity, 49% of women said their career had been positively impacted by COVID-19, according to a new report by security firm, Tessian.

Compared to the large numbers of women being made redundant or furloughed in other sectors, only 9% of female cybersecurity professionals said COVID-19 had negatively impacted their careers.

While other industries were cutting down on their workforce, the study found recruitment was up in cybersecurity where 94% of women said they recruited “new staff members” in 2020.

Job security for women in cybersecurity was high at 89%, which is positive, considering the sector’s diversity problems. A recent Government report found that female representation was at 31%. In comparison, the white group reported the highest workplace confidence based on their identity (75%), compared to those that identified as Black, African, Caribbean, or Black British (41%).

While women are prospering in the cybersecurity world, the study confirmed that work needs to be done to recruit more women. In its survey of university graduates, men aged 18-25 (42%) were more likely to consider a career in cybersecurity than their female counterparts from the same age group (26%).

While the report revealed an interest in the sector among young women where 87% said “they found the industry important” and 73% thought it “interesting”, Gen Zs, in particular, are concerned that they don’t have the skills to “thrive” in the sector and are unsure about how to “navigate a career change.”

When asked what would bring more women into the sector, female cybersecurity professionals said equal pay (47%), “a gender-balanced workforce” (43%), and “a greater emphasis on STEM subjects in schools” (41%). But female inclusion in cybersecurity isn’t only good for women’s rights; it could also add £4.4 billion to the UK economy if female participation equalled men, according to a previous Tessian study.

Commenting on the new report, Sabrina Castiglione, Tessian’s Chief Financial Officer, said: “The women in our report have spoken; cybersecurity is an industry to build a thriving career, even in a global pandemic, and the younger generation recognises that it’s important. Now, we need to show more women and girls how they can explore the opportunities available to them.

“Greater awareness in schools is critical, but businesses, too, can help build a more diverse talent pool for the future through initiatives like hiring more diverse candidates at junior levels and developing them into senior roles, and creating platforms for role models to share their stories. We won’t solve the gender gap overnight. But acting now and playing the long game will have enormous benefits – both for businesses and society.”

Cybersecurity firms should have a responsibility to bring more women into the industry, but acknowledging female role models and encouraging them to take STEM subjects isn’t enough. There must be a willingness among firms to offer roles to women who might not have an academic background in the area where offering upskilling support on the job, establishing training programmes, and simply good management can help.

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