Later this month, I will be speaking at Women in Cyber Security (WiCyS), a gathering that brings together women in cyber security from academia, research and industry for sharing of knowledge experience, as well as networking and mentoring. As an invited speaker to the panel: Leadership in Cyber Security: Pathways and Strategies for Success, I was excited to be included with such distinguished women in the industry. I especially like the WiCyS event, because it brings together all of the facets of successful inclusion for the future.
According to a study from Frost and Sullivan and ISC(2), there remains a growing demand for cyber security skilled professionals. Additionally, as an industry cyber security remains an area of growth and opportunity, however, according to the 2017 Global Information Security Workforce Study: Women in Cyber Security, the representation of females in this field is low – with women just represented at 11% (much lower than the representation of women in the global workforce). This is always a challenge to explore: how do you keep individuals engaged and inspired to explore such opportunities?
There are a number of fine people in the field doing such great things in cyber security at all stages of their career. The question of “What is the path for success” can be difficult to answer, because “success” is not a quantifiable term and may not mean the same thing for each individual. I tend to approach the question of gender diversity in three different chunks:
- Pipeline: Does everyone know early on, or in the right stage of their growth, that this is a viable field for them? What are the barriers around developing the mindset that allows this career to grow and advance?
- Maintain: Once someone has entered the field, do they have an environment where they can bring their best selves to the task each day, they are valued contributors, and can thrive?
- Sustain: As we look to the field in the future, what actions are we taking now that can sustain a talented workforce into the future? Are there programs or initiatives that need to be built for the next generation of people entering the field?
Having people who enter the field but do not stay does not solve the problem. In their report “Solving the Equation”, AAUW explores the variables for women to succeed in Engineering and Computing, and make note of the importance of emphasizing social relevance. Regardless of how we found our way into information security, the mission is often why we stay. The mission of protecting the online world is so important today, and carries that social relevance. It drives so many of us to succeed and persevere, at all stages of our career. Every day, in quiet ways, if you work in cyber security, you are making a difference.
The mission is why events like WiCyS are so important. By bringing together students, researchers, professionals at all stages of their career, who are passionate about securing the world, we bring together a new set of eyes and perspectives, to harness the opportunity and growth the field is experiencing and engaging the diverse professional talent it so desperately needs.
After all, as Buffy would say “It’s the mission that matters”.
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