Women in cybersecurity: Shattering the myths, once and for all

Women in cybersecurity: Shattering the myths, once and for all


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The story of the young cybersecurity tycoon who spent his youth destroying computers has been told so many times that it is almost a cliché. He started coding in the family garage. He graduated first in his class with a bachelor’s degree in computer science. He launched his own startup (also from the garage), and the rest is history.

Fortunately, this is not the only way to launch a successful career in cybersecurity. Unfortunately, the persistence of this narrative tends to deter those who believe that it does not fit the “traditional” mold. Too often, this applies to women, and while some women get degrees like CTO, CIO, or CISO, the cybersecurity industry remains heavily dominated by men. The field of cybersecurity is still struggling to attract women, in large part because it is hard for them to imagine.

Women who are successful in cybersecurity should not be atypical, especially today, at a time when the field is experiencing explosive growth and talent is in high demand. Today’s cybersecurity companies also often cite diversity as a priority, with the stated goal of putting new perspectives on the table. To achieve this, it is time to dispel the myths that underpin the intimidating reputation of cybersecurity and to break down the false barriers to entry that keep women out.

Myth no. 1: You must have a computer degree to work in cybersecurity

Despite what many people may believe, cybersecurity is something that can potentially be done just fall into. Many cybersecurity professionals have undergraduate degrees in fields ranging from English to sociology. Some may start as a sales representative or pharmacy technician. Granted, success in cybersecurity requires a great deal of passion for the field, but that doesn’t necessarily mean spending your training years getting ready and following a conventional path.

A computer science degree may be useful, but it is far from mandatory. This is not to say that degrees and certifications are not important, but skills can be taught. Ultimately, what defines a good security professional is how they deal with problem solving. For example, a bachelor’s degree in math or philosophy can provide a foundation for practicing logic and problem solving that translates incredibly well into cybersecurity.

Dedicated self-directed learning can also help bridge any knowledge gaps that impede a cybersecurity career. One thing that successful leaders often have in common is a willingness to keep learning. If you are interested in things like programming languages, malware analysis, ethical piracy, or other relevant topics, there are ways to gain that knowledge outside of a traditional degree program. Take the lead: Self-education and certification can make candidates stand out as driven successes. A growing number of job seekers are arriving with self-taught skills, a history of IT-related volunteer work, and training camp certifications. Knowledge does not just come from a university.

Myth # 2: Cybersecurity is an exclusive field for men

Despite having the skills, abilities, and dedication to succeed in cybersecurity, women can be held back by the idea that it is a field for men. And while it is true that the field is still dominated by men, it is far from exclusive to them. Currently, women make up almost 20% of the cybersecurity workforce. This may seem low, but in 2013 women accounted for only 11% of the cybersecurity workforce, so the trend is rapidly moving in the right direction. If ever there was a time to enter the field, it is now.

This is underlined by the fact that today’s women are more likely to finish college than men, which is an important turning point in gender parity and a key indicator for the future of the workforce. But even armed with higher education, many women still face the imposter syndrome, especially in a male-dominated field such as cybersecurity. They often feel inadequate, even with a proven track record of success. Technology leaders have traditionally been promoted as male figures, and it’s easy to see why women often struggle internally with the problem of measuring themselves. Finding the right fit and the right corporate culture can make a big difference.

Companies with a strong, value-based culture that emphasize professional development, support, and constructive feedback are critical to success. It is also important for women to help each other, serving as both mentors and cheerleaders for each other as they enter the field. There are allies in this whole industry and they will stay; after all, two-thirds of women in cybersecurity say they plan to stay there for the rest of their careers.

Myth no. 3: Cybersecurity requires you to encrypt or hack

It is true that there are cybersecurity roles that require coding skills or hacking. But they are far outnumbered by positions that do not. Unfortunately, many cybersecurity to-do lists include requirements that seem designed for a mythical unicorn who can code, hack, and understand all the jobs in the industry. This can be especially discouraging for women, as studies have shown that they are prone to underestimate their own qualifications.

Companies need to be more flexible with their job descriptions, or many women will not even show up. On the other hand, potential applicants should understand that while the lists of cybersecurity jobs may give the impression that only a select few people are qualified enough to apply, this is not the case. the case. The tech industry is facing a huge talent gap, and this is the most flexible time ever for candidates who want to enter the field.

Today, there are nearly 600,000 unoccupied cybersecurity jobs in the U.S. alone. Jobs are open at all levels, and many organizations are investing in training programs to update their workers. This is an era marked by investment in employee skills, especially in technology. Gone are the days of traditional educational settings; Cybersecurity recruiters are looking for candidates who are well-aligned with technical skills for the job and, most importantly, with the right attitude.

In the world of cybersecurity, any experience is a good experience. An entry-level job as a cyber threat analyst may focus primarily on reporting, but can be leveraged for more practical technical support work. The industry needs talent, and there will always be opportunities to expand your role and take on new responsibilities if you want to. When these opportunities arise, all you have to do is raise your hand. Sometimes all you need to do is encourage volunteering.

Entering the field

The field of cybersecurity is changing rapidly. With the right dedication, skill set and support systems, today’s women are finding success in every corner of the industry. Old barriers to entry such as the need for certain titles, the idea that it is “a man’s field” or recruiters with unrealistic expectations should no longer keep women awake at night.

Women are behind some of today’s most important cybersecurity operations and innovations. They are expected to be behind even greater industry advances in the next five, 10 and 20 years. From entry level to C-suite, they are already getting to work. There is an important opportunity for month women to participate in this future.

To anyone who isn’t sure if they should seek cybersecurity – it’s time to raise your hand. If you wanted to raise your hand yesterday but didn’t, raise it today. Whether it’s volunteering for a project, changing roles, or interviewing for a job, the best way to start your cybersecurity career is to get your head around it. Who is the game?

Heather Gantt-Evans is CISO from SailPoint.

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