By Santosh Rajashekar, CISSP 

The field of cybersecurity plays a crucial role in safeguarding our increasingly digitalized world against cyber threats. However, it has historically been dominated by men, resulting in significant underrepresentation of women and non-binary. This lack of diversity hampers innovation and limits the industry's potential, creating a knowledge and skills gap that could otherwise benefit the field of cybersecurity. 

Despite efforts to encourage women to join the industry, barriers to entry and inadequate support persist. Women in cybersecurity often encounter gender bias, a scarcity of mentorship opportunities, and limited access to resources that could facilitate career advancement. Consequently, the industry misses out on the unique perspectives and skills that women bring, while women themselves miss opportunities to excel in a rapidly expanding domain. 

To address this issue, it is essential to establish a platform that supports and empowers women in cybersecurity. This platform should offer resources, mentorship programs, networking events, and training initiatives to enable women to enhance their skills and deepen their knowledge. ISC2 maintains a DEI Resource Center that offers many of these materials. The goal is to cultivate a more diverse and inclusive cybersecurity profession where women can thrive and make valuable contributions. By equipping women with the necessary tools and resources for success in cybersecurity, we can bridge the gender gap and elevate diversity standards throughout the industry. 

The State of the Industry 
The industry is increasingly recognizing the importance of promoting diversity, equity and inclusion, leading to the formation of various organizations and projects that aim to encourage women's participation and excellence in the sector. Some of these organizations include WiCyS, Latinas in Cyber, BlackGirlsHack and Women Society of Cyberjutsu

According to survey data from ISC2, there is a growing trend of women pursuing cybersecurity as a career path. The data reveals that a higher percentage of women currently working in cybersecurity (63%) had already planned to pursue this career during their college days compared to their male counterparts (54%). Additionally, women between the ages of 25 and 34 exhibit the highest level of interest in seeking cybersecurity education. 

While progress is being made, the study also highlights the existence of inequities. About 22% of women surveyed reported experiencing discrimination as a challenge in their careers. 

Undeterred by these obstacles, women are continuing to enter the cybersecurity workforce at higher rates each year. By the end of 2026, it is projected that women will represent 35% of the global cybersecurity workforce, a significant increase from the 13% recorded in 2015. 

Investing in Women 
Initiatives tailored exclusively for women in cybersecurity, such as scholarships, training programs, mentorship opportunities, and networking events, have gained traction in recent years. Additionally, there is a rising presence of women in leadership positions within the industry, serving as role models and advocates for others. While great strides have been made by women in these positions,  underrepresentation is still an issue in the cybersecurity field. 

Challenges related to gender bias and discrimination persist in recruitment and promotion processes, as well as in workplace culture. Moreover, women may encounter limited access to mentoring and training programs crucial for their professional growth in the sector. 

It is imperative for the industry to prioritize and invest in initiatives that promote gender diversity, equity and inclusion. This entails fostering a more inclusive workplace culture, implementing more equitable hiring practices, making mentoring and training programs readily available, and engaging men as advocates and allies for their women colleagues. By doing so, the industry can harness the full spectrum of skills and perspectives that women have to offer, and better equip itself to tackle the evolving challenges of the cyber landscape. 

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Getting Men Involved 
The cyber security industry currently exhibits a predominant male presence, which necessitates proactive measures from men in leadership roles to bring about substantial change. The objective is to rectify an unfair system that impedes the representation and achievements of women within the industry. Establishing an environment that is equitable and inclusive demands active efforts from male authorities to bridge the gaps. By doing so, women will be empowered to excel in their roles and feel comfortable sharing their skills and perspectives with colleagues. It is crucial that we acknowledge and eliminate the systemic barriers that hinder the progress and potential of women. If men in positions of power genuinely wish to support the success of women in cybersecurity, they must actively create opportunities for them. Women now require the sponsorship and support of influential men to open doors and champion their cause. Simply serving as mentors is no longer sufficient. Ultimately, by encouraging men to become intentional sponsors and allies, we can work together to transform the cybersecurity industry into a more diverse and inclusive space.  

What the Future Holds 
In the future, a comprehensive initiative is required to establish a platform that enables women to excel in the cybersecurity field. This initiative should primarily concentrate on equipping women with the necessary resources, support, and training to thrive in the industry. 

One potential future initiative could involve the development of a virtual mentorship program that connects younger women with experienced professionals. This program could be designed to offer personalized guidance, support, and opportunities for networking and professional growth. Another potential initiative could entail the launch of a scholarship program that provides financial assistance to women pursuing degrees or certifications in cybersecurity. This program would address the financial barriers that often hinder women from entering the field. 

Furthermore, there is a need for more training and development programs specifically tailored for women in cybersecurity. These programs should focus on enhancing technical skills, as well as leadership and communication abilities. Trainings can be delivered through diverse formats, such as online courses or in-person workshops. The Center for Cyber Safety and Education is offering a webinar series “Why I Speak” to provide women with the resources they need to prepare for presenting at events.   

Lastly, there is a demand for increased advocacy and awareness-raising efforts to promote gender diversity and inclusion in the field. This could involve collaborating with industry associations, hosting events and conferences, and engaging with policymakers to advocate for policies supporting gender diversity in the workforce. 

In summary, it is imperative to establish a platform that helps women thrive in their current roles and empowers more women to pursue careers in cybersecurity. Implementing initiatives tailored towards women is a vital first step in dismantling barriers and facilitating women’s success in the field. By fostering a cybersecurity industry that is more diverse and inclusive, we can cultivate a stronger and more resilient workforce, equipped to tackle the intricate cyber threats of the future.