Driving a bus through cyber security conundrum
As a fast-moving sector that hinges on advancements in technology, it’s almost inevitable that the cyber security industry will be forever chasing a skills gap.
Due to the widespread adoption of popular technologies such as cloud, the Internet of Things and DevOps, this gap is constantly growing. Analysts have predicted there will be a shortage of 1.8 million workers in the information security sector by 2022.
However women, who could help meet that need, make up only 20 per cent of the cyber security workforce. It's detrimental and embarrassing that gender prejudice is causing potentially great candidates to never consider the field.
UK cyber security needs women and also diversity in age, race and sexuality – because the people they are hunting down also come with a variety of backgrounds and experiences. The stakes are high and only getting higher.
It was great to see GCHQ launch its CyberFirst Girls Competition, which specifically targets girls aged 12 to 13, this week. I’d like to see more of these initiatives targeted at harnessing the interest of female students in STEM subjects. However there is still more that can be done at a political and governmental level.
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The key to getting more women into the cyber security and IT sectors is to market them as normal careers for women. If people of both genders going through school and university see examples of real women with a career in security – not ‘heroines’ or ‘trailblazers’ – then it will no longer be unusual. An analogous career where this has already worked is driving a bus.
Equally, women who have already left university and are in later parts of their working life, or returning to work after a career break, should be encouraged by bursaries, training schemes and grants to swap careers and try cyber security.
In the modern world, we have a long working life and so we have time to try a range of different careers. A seemingly unrelated skillset such as teaching, marketing or sales can actually translate very well to cyber security, as a major problem is raising user awareness.
The focus on gender representation is both a good and a bad thing for women in cyber security. It forces companies to face their darker natures and perhaps to begin to change; but it can also make women who already have careers in cyber security feel conspicuous and under constant scrutiny, as everyone keeps telling us how unusual we are. Sometimes we don’t want to be trailblazers, role models or mould-breakers; we just want to do cyber security!
Given the waves of data breaches hitting British organisations throughout 2018, and the ongoing skills shortage, it’s vital that we work to make cyber security an exciting and accessible career choice for all.