Picture a cybersecurity hacker sitting cunningly behind a screen, hatching a devastating plot and I’ll bet you pictured that figure of a hacker as a male, right?
It’s easy to understand why. The under-representation of women generally in STEM is common knowledge, but the figures are even lower when it comes to women in the arena of cybersecurity.
It’s an industry that has one of the worst gender pay gaps globally and one of the greatest gender imbalances.
According to the Guardian, the percentage of women in the field globally stands at just 11%, a number that has remained steady since 2013. In the UK and Europe, the figures are even lower, standing at 8% and 7% respectively.
So what are some of the causes and implications of this under-representation?
It actually begins in school. Starting with primary and high-school education, girls and young women are not often encouraged to pursue computer sciences or other STEM degrees or interests. Add to this the pop-culture stereotype of a male-dominated cyber security world and you’re left with an environment that’s not conducive to or encouraging of women entering the field.
Seeking to re-dress this phenomenon, an Israeli start-up called CyberGirlz has implemented an initiative that encourages and prepares Israelis of high school age to enter the cutting-edge field of cybersecurity. Each year, CyberGirlz—a program that promotes equal opportunities across business sectors—trains and ultimately recruits the next generation of women for hi-tech in both the military and business sectors.
While Australia doesn’t fare much better statistically regarding gender imbalance in the industry, there are also measures being implemented to address this issue as well.
According to a recent report on the ABC, women are still greatly underrepresented in the workforce in the fields of STEM, with a large female dropout rate in those subjects at school. But it is hoped that a recent study conducted by UNSW, which shows equal performance in the subjects among boys and girls, will lead to more girls studying these subjects and will lead to the break down of long-held stereotypes.
Also promoting women in this field, the Australian Women in Security Network provides a forum for women in the industry to connect and find support, and outside Australia, an online resource created for women and girls seeking information on careers in technology has been launched by CompTIA and its Advancing Women in Technology Community, which includes links to organisations across the technology industry and around the world that help girls and women join the tech workforce and grow in their careers.