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Authored by Shirley Gifford

Women in the cyber security industry

In an exclusive interview with Information Age, a female executive working in cyber security discusses why it is important to get more women in the sector 'While the cyber security industry is rapidly growing, women are severely underrepresented. Currently, only about 11% of the cyber security workforce is female, according to the 2017 Global Information Security Workforce Study' There are over one million cyber security roles currently unfilled today, according to data from job site Indeed. But, as was made clear in 2017, global cybercrime is increasing, which means that number can more than triple by 2021, reaching close to 3.5 million.

The cyber security workforce shortage is severe – and it’s even worse when we look at female representation: 11% of cyber security workforce globally are women – and less than 10% of those women are in leadership roles. In an effort to close this gap, Israeli cyber security startup Morphisec is launching its first Women in Cybersecurity Scholarship Program in the US. The program was initiated by Morphisec’s VP of Product Netta Schmeidler. She serves as chairperson of the scholarship committee.

Schmeidler says “Cyber security is a great career for women. The work is demanding and fast-paced but inherently flexible as to work day structure as well as types of work available: from deep research to sales, marketing and high level management, and the industry needs more women. Their diverse voices, viewpoints and opinions help drive innovation, improvement and resilience.”

In an exclusive interview with Information Age, Schmeidler discussed the topic of women in cyber security at length.

What is the current level of women in cyber security roles, compared to men?

While the cyber security industry is rapidly growing, women are severely underrepresented. Currently, only about 11% of the cyber security workforce is female, according to the 2017 Global Information Security Workforce Study. This is far behind other industries. For example, in the US women represent nearly 47% of total workers, and even 26% of positions in the IT and computing industry (an industry notorious for low female participation).

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How can this number be improved? And why is it important to do so?

This number can be improved by exposing young women to the field and showing them that there is a future for them in cybersecurity. We need to show these girls that the cybersecurity industry embodies them and their ideals. That it’s about creative ways to preserve the openness and freedom of the digital world while making it safer, from practical tactics up to the highest levels of policy.

We also need to better tap into local role models. There are incredible women in the field of cyber security in every country. For me, women like Keren Elazari, Dr. Kira Radinsky and Orna Berry, to name a few, still amaze and inspire me with their drive, fearlessness and belief that nothing is impossible.

It is important to improve the number of women in cyber security because women are, in general, often able to see things from multiple perspectives and excel at multi-tasking – skills crucial in a young, continuously evolving industry. They also tend to be better than men at team-building, cross-organisational collaboration and communication, abilities that are also increasingly critical, particularly in the drive to align security with business strategy.

There is a recent study by ISC that shows women possess the traits needed to transform the directions, operating practices and priorities of security organisations – in contract to their male counterparts. In other words, the cybersecurity industry needs more women.

Can you tell me more about the Women in Cybersecurity Scholarship Program? What is the aim of this?

At Morphisec, we believe to the degree that women are underrepresented in the field of cyber security is a detriment to the industry as a whole. We believe diversity drives innovation and collectively, we strive to increase the number of women in the cyber security industry.

This program is open to female students studying for degrees in cyber security, information assurance, information security, information systems security or other sub-disciplines of computer science.

All applicants must be enrolled for the 2017-2018 academic school year and be either Israeli or U.S. citizens. Three scholarships will be offered in the following amounts: $2,500, $1,500 and $1,000. The aim of this program is to heighten awareness of the importance of this field and encourage the exploration of careers in cybersecurity, particularly for women.

In what other ways can the security industry help bridge the gender gap?

We all read the discouraging survey that showed that girls as young as 16 already decided against cyber security. The industry needs to create programs for young girls, in middle school, showing how cool and challenging cyber security could be.

Change the atmosphere at security organisations: the male-dominated environment is at times loud, aggressive, and viewed as not welcoming to young women. Managers should take the time to ask the junior women of their opinion, encourage them to participate in discussions and enable them to demonstrate their knowledge and value.

I remember one of my team members once said something that struck me, good managers are like conductors – they know what instruments are in the orchestra. To get the best sounding symphony, once in a while you need to lower the volume of one section to give another a leading voice. That is true as to encouraging female employees, but also for any other employee who has a less bellicose voice and might be easily overheard. Source

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