Women now actually make up 24% of the cybersecurity workforce – a seismic shift from the perennially static 11% number over the past six or more years. But this new data point, revealed today by ISC(2), comes with a caveat: It now counts women in IT whose daily jobs entail security responsibilities.
ISC2 retooled its survey data this year to include men and women in IT jobs where at least 25% of their day encompasses security tasks and issues to better reflect the scope of the job sector. That means it's difficult to infer from the new ISC(2) data whether there has been significant growth in women cybersecurity professionals or whether women without cybersecurity-related job titles merely had gone uncounted in past surveys by ISC(2) and other organizations.
Cybersecurity Ventures said in a study last year that women would make up over 20% of the overall cybsersecurity market by the end of 2019.
While one-fourth still represents a relatively low ratio of women to men, the study shows a clear female youth-movement in security: Millennial women now make up 45% of women in the industry, compared with Millennial-age men, who make up 33% of their gender sector. That's a shift from Generation X, which accounts for 25% of women and 44% of men in cybersecurity.
Mary-Jo de Leeuw, ISC(2) director of cybersecurity advocacy for the EMEA region, says the uptick in younger women entering the cybersecurity field stems from a cultural change as well as earlier exposure to technology and the presence of female role models in tech.
"They grew up in a digital world" and come from a culture where the Internet permeates their lives, according to de Leeuw, who has been involved with various organizations promoting cybersecurity skills and training for women and girls. "They're used to being part of all cyber things around them, so they can also focus on being part of cybersecurity and part of the digital world."
Not only are young girls – and boys – gradually getting more tech exposure at an earlier age, but cybersecurity education is emerging, with more undergraduate and graduate programs.
"When I was growing up in the industry, there wasn't any type of academia around cybersecurity, even at the college level. Security experience mostly came from government and niche roles and backgrounds," says Jennifer Minella, chairperson on the (ISC)2 board of directors and vice president of engineering and security at Carolina Advanced Digital.
Now there are programs, such as the CyberPatriot youth cyber education initiative for K-12, that provide cybersecurity exposure and education, according to Minella. "It's reaching down to people at a younger age now," she says.
Meanwhile, the gender pay gap hasn't budged. Women still make less than men overall: While nearly 30% of men in the US make between $50,000 to $99,999, just 17% of women do. One-fifth of men make $100,000-plus, while 16% of women do. Overall, women make $5,000 less than men in security management positions, according to the ISC(2) report.
Millennial women, however, are making better salaries than previous generations of women. Twenty-one percent of Millennial women earn $50,000 to $99,999, compared with 29% of Millennial men. Even more interesting, 3% more Millennial women than men of that generation make $100,000-plus.
Just 10% of Baby Boomer women fell into the $50,000 to $90,000 salary scale, compared with 30% of Boomer men. As for Generation X, there was a 12% gap between men making $50,000 to $99,999. And 12% more Baby Boomer men make $100,000-plus than women of that age group.
"The pay gap was still [about the same]," de Leeuw says. "The next step is getting equal pay for women. ... We're getting there."
Interestingly, more women are filling some of the higher-level job positions than men: Seven percent of women in the survey are chief technology officers, versus 2% of men; 9% are vice presidents of IT, versus 5% of men; 18% are IT directors, versus 14% of men; and 28% of women are C-level executives, versus 19% of men. There were 15 female CISOs in the study, compared with 32 male CISOs.
Women Better Schooled
Women hold more post-graduate degrees than men, 52% versus 44%, and women consider certifications and grad school more valuable than men do, according to the study. Women, on average, hold more certs than men.
The advanced degree and certification statistics follow a trend ISC(2) first spotted in its 2015 women in cybersecurity report, where 58% of women in senior positions held a master's degree or a doctorate, while 47% of males in leadership positions did. That study also showed women dominated the governance, risk, and compliance (GRC) sector of security, however: One in five women in security held a GRC position, while just one in eight men did.
In a similar vein, a recent International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP) study of the Fortune 100 top publicly traded companies showed more women (53%) than men (47%) in the privacy profession in the US. The chief privacy officer position is twice as likely to be a woman than a man, that data shows.
[Hear Angela Dogan, director of vendor risk and compliance services at Lynx Technology Partners, present Cybersecurity Careers: Is There More Than IT?, at Interop 2019 next month]
Even so, there's still a wide gender gap in cybersecurity.
"Twenty-four percent is a nice baseline from where can move forward," ISC(2)'s de Leeuw says. She hopes it will inspire more women to enter the cybersecurity sector.
"This is a huge step," she says. "When I founded Women in Cybersecurity in 2012 in Holland, we had only four women working in cybersecurity. I knew all of them in the entire country. Compare that to where we are today, with women making up 24% of the [overall cybersecurity] workforce."
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