The cybersecurity profession remains primarily a man’s world. But for how long? (ISC)² research reveals women are making fast gains in the industry, and as a group, they are setting their sights on leadership roles.
Overall, female representation in the cybersecurity workforce has increased to about one quarter (24%), more than double the 11% estimate from 2016, according to (ISC)2’s Women in Cybersecurity report. The report is based on findings in the (ISC)² Cybersecurity Workforce Study 2018, and it uses different research methodology from the earlier study. For instance, it includes women who spend at least 25% of their work hours on cybersecurity tasks.
As of now, the industry still skews largely male, but the gender mix is certainly changing in favor of stronger female participation. Buoyed by higher levels of education and more certifications than their male counterparts, female cybersecurity workers are asserting themselves in the profession.
Women are parlaying those credentials into leadership roles. Higher percentages of female cybersecurity professionals are reaching positions such as CTO (7% of women vs. 2% of men), vice president of IT (9% vs. 5%), IT director (18% vs. 14%) and C-level executive (28% vs. 19%).
This is a welcome development for women in the profession, who have traditionally faced a longer uphill climb to the cybersecurity ranks. The research suggests that as a group, women have figured out a path to the upper echelons of the profession.
Education vs. Compensation
The Women in Cybersecurity report reveals that women working in cybersecurity roles have higher levels of education than men (19% of women have a doctorate or higher vs. 10% of men). As a group, women also hold more certifications, such as ISSA (27% of women vs. 14% of men) and IIA (15% of women vs. 6% of men).
Female cybersecurity professionals also place more value than men (28% vs. 20%) on cybersecurity (or related) graduate degrees.
One of the reasons women are more diligent in vying for management roles may have to do with compensation. The research suggests female cybersecurity professionals still earn less than their male counterparts. The higher you go, presumably the more you earn.
Asked about their 2017 salaries, 17% of women said they earned $50,000 to $99,000, a full 12 percentage points less than their male counterparts (29%). Women fare worse in the $100,000-$499,000 range (15% vs. 20% of men) but it’s important to note that proportionally fewer women are at those salary levels.
Female cybersecurity workers also tend to be younger. Nearly half of the women in cybersecurity are millennials (45%), while millennials make up only one third (33%) of the male professionals. By contrast, Generation X men make up a bigger percentage of the workforce (44%) than women (25%).
This means that as a group women are younger, more educated and ready to take charge. While men still far outnumber them in the current cybersecurity workforce, female professionals are certainly making their mark.