As I sat and listened to a group of female cyber security students during a focus group that I was participating in for Engaging Women in Cyber Security, a realization hit me like a hammer on the head. Women techies are still so far away from parity with their male counterparts, it is shocking. I heard stories of bullying, huge wage discrepancies, and feelings of defeat. What shocked me most was to hear a veteran woman who has been working in the cyber security space for 20+ years wanting to quit so many times because of the bullying by her male counterparts. Now don’t get me wrong, it isn’t all males who exhibit this abhorrent behaviour, but they certainly do give a bad name for the good ones.
The statistics are miserable for women in cyber security, only 11% of cyber security professionals are women, and retention is certainly an issue. Women are often paid less, promoted less and deal with discrimination and harassment, prompting them to seek out other careers. This is indeed a concern as it is predicted that there will be 3.5 million cyber security job openings by 2021. The cyber security industry must aim to increase the number of women working in these positions, 50/50 is still a long way away.
When it was my turn to speak to these young women, I encouraged them to use confidence to push through the adversities of becoming a woman in cyber security. Confidence to stand up against the bullies, use corporate policies to protect their positions and push through all the unfairness that is a very real issue for women in technology. The spoils are well worth it and many companies are striving to make things right.
-Susan Norton, CEO Alcea Technologies Inc.