Cybersecurity’s giant gender gap

New data finds that only 10% of IT security jobs are held by women – this despite the fact that more women are entering the field. 

According to a Booz Allen Hamilton and (ISC)2 report, these numbers haven’t changed in the last two years.

The study found:

  • while more women are entering the infosec field, they aren’t gaining ground on men in leadership roles
  • women are more likely to hold a governance, risk or compliance position than men, and
  • in general, women had higher academic achievement levels than men (58% of women in infosec leadership positions had a masters or doctorate while only 47% of men did).

One possible reason for this disparity is the gap in women in traditional pipelines for IT security and management. The top three college majors for infosec pros – business, engineering and computer and information sciences – are often majority male pursuits.

And even though women are entering these fields more often, that alone isn’t enough to keep up with the current high demand for information security professionals.

Study recommendations

According to the study authors:

“… the InfoSec profession wants and needs to be defined by more than technical and operational expertise. This profession should be recognized for coupling its practical expertise with an acute level of business acumen in serving their organizations in reaching complex strategic and tactical business objectives. Women, in our assessment, have the foundation to push this coupling of practical expertise and business acumen into the new standard of the InfoSec profession.”

Given the current demand for information security professionals, this makes sense. If companies continue to draw on technical expertise alone, the shortage of qualified professionals isn’t likely to grow.

Since the study finds that governance and compliance are growing fields, this could be an area where IT needs an infusion of new talent from a variety of sources, not just the traditional pipelines.

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