Women rising in cybersecurity roles, but roadblocks remain

The ISC2 study on women in cybersecurity, a comprehensive research effort that collected responses from 2,400 women, has revealed several significant findings. These include promising trends in women’s entry into the profession, their roles within teams, and their comparable achievements with men. However, the study also underscores the need for continued efforts to support and promote women in the cybersecurity workforce.

women in cybersecurity

Increased diversity

With the average representation of women on cybersecurity teams at 23%, attracting and retaining more diverse individuals is essential to address the global cyber workforce gap of 4 million individuals. Despite women still representing a minority in cybersecurity, ISC2 observed increased diversity within the younger workforce.

Among respondents in the “under 30” age category, 26% identified as women, while only 13% of respondents in the “65 or older” age category were women. By 2025, research predicts that women will represent 30% of the global cybersecurity workforce, increasing to 35% by 2031.

The research reveals that more women acknowledge the importance of diversity on their security team than men (76% vs. 63% respectively), and 78% of women feel that an inclusive environment is essential for their team’s success. Yet, 11% of the workforce study participants said they had no women on their security teams, and 21% of men did not know the proportion of women on their security team compared to 13% of women.

“It’s great to see incremental progress of younger women entering cybersecurity, however, it’s not enough and more needs to be done. We must continue to build a culture for all women that creates a sense of belonging that results in the retention of women in cybersecurity careers,” said Clar Rosso, CEO, ISC2. “Research reveals that the most engaged women in cybersecurity work at organizations that invest time and resources into diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives such as offering competitive pay, hosting mentorship programs and establishing an inclusive culture that fosters professional development opportunities.”

Key findings

With progress being made, the research explores that there’s still work to be accomplished around supporting gender representation, advocating for DEI activities and eliminating workplace discrimination and salary inequities. Additional findings include:

  • Cloud Services, Automotive, and Construction are the industries with the highest percentage (28%) of women on security teams, while Military and Utilities had the lowest (20%).
  • Women have an average salary of $109,609 compared to $115,003 for men – a difference of $5,400.
  • 36% of women felt that they could not be authentic at work, compared to 29% of men.
  • South Asian (48%), Black or African descent (43%) and Hispanic or Latinx (42%) women were most likely to report feeling like they can’t be their authentic self at work.
  • 29% of women reported feeling discriminated against in the workplace compared to 19% of men.
  • Women of Black or African descent in Canada/United Kingdom/Ireland reported the highest levels of discrimination, with 53% feeling discriminated against.
  • 69% of women respondents said DEI will continue to become more important for their security teams over the next five years (compared to 55% of men).
  • 66% of women say diversity has contributed to their security team’s success and 78% of women believe an inclusive environment is essential for the team’s success.
  • Women reported lower cybersecurity staffing shortages at their organizations than male participants (62% vs. 68%), with their organizations sourcing talent from other departments, implementing job rotations, and hiring those without cyber experience at higher rates.
  • Women reported higher rates of pursuing cybersecurity in school (14%), compared with men (10%).
  • Women want to work in a constantly evolving field (21%) and one where they can help people and society (16%) at higher rates than men (18% and 14%, respectively).

women in cybersecurity

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