How to Close the Gender Gap in the Cybersecurity Workforce

A joint study by Boston Consulting Group and The Global Cybersecurity Forum finds that women still only make up a quarter of the workforce in the field of cybersecurity. And the global cybersecurity workforce would need to grow by 80 percent to meet the current demand.

The researchers surveyed 2,000 women undergraduate students in STEM fields in 26 countries. They found that engaging women with STEM subjects at an early stage is key to their participation in cybersecurity: 78 percent of the survey respondents developed an interest in STEM in middle school or high school. However, access to STEM education is not the main stumbling block, according to the survey results.

Challenges include social or cultural norms constraining what women study, home and care responsibilities that affect their ability to enter or succeed in a cybersecurity career, and negative perceptions of cybersecurity as a career choice. About 37 percent of respondents think cybersecurity does not offer work-life balance, which is one of the top three factors for women choosing a job, along with good compensation and meaningful work.

“The results of this report have shown that women are ready and prepared to fill the talent gap in the cybersecurity workforce,” said Alaa M. Alfaadhel of the Global Cybersecurity Forum. “With the right encouragement from a young age, women can not only begin to enter the industry, but can also become leaders in their field.”

Leila Hoteit, managing director and senior partner at the Boston Consulting Group and a co-author of the report, added that “closing the gender gap in cybersecurity would fulfill an urgent demand in the field that is only going to get bigger. It would also strengthen cyber resilience by bringing in diverse perspectives and would improve business performance. But at the current pace, it will take 130 years to achieve gender parity in the industry. The escalation in cybersecurity threats and their economic impact make it imperative that urgent action is taken to address this mismatch.”

The report recommends a holistic approach, addressing the pipeline, recruitment, retention, and advancement for women in the field. Key initiatives would include targeted STEM engagement of school-age girls; openness to training or reskilling candidates with aptitude; gender- and family-friendly policies; ensuring a good work-life balance; and providing access to mentors, sponsors, and women’s networks dedicated to advancing women into senior leadership roles.

The full report, “Empowering Women to Work in Cybersecurity Is a Win-Win,” may be viewed here.

Filed Under: Gender GapResearch/Study

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