Advancing Cybersecurity by Closing the Gender Gap [Weekly Cybersecurity Brief]

As we know, there are many factors driving the recent attention put on cybersecurity. From the threat of geopolitical discord to continued recovery from the large-scale attacks that have swept through private, government and infrastructure sectors, we are ensconced in cybersecurity, like it or not. And as we try to identify the best ways to strengthen our approaches going forward, one of the most important is to diversify the perspectives represented in the industry. Each year, March marks the celebration of Women’s History Month. While we honor the trajectory-defining achievements of women across fields, it is important to acknowledge that we still need to create more opportunities. This is particularly true in cybersecurity. This week, we look at Microsoft’s new survey examining the state of the gender gap.

Before diving further into the results of the study though, there was another announcement made surrounding the support of growing the cybersecurity force. As The Hill reported, the government funding bill recently submitted to President Biden included a proposed $2.6 billion budget for the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA). Those total tops last year’s by $568 million, speaking to the critical point we are at in addressing the need for greater cybersecurity, especially as potential threats from Russia persist. As part of the budget, $119.5 million would be allocated for “threat hunting,” according to the article, $64.1 million would go toward “vulnerability management.” Another focus of the funds would be aiding CISA’s regional support throughout the country.

Funding is certainly a major element of building cybersecurity capabilities across the board, but like we stated earlier, bettering cybersecurity also takes bettering inclusion. Pointing to this need, Microsoft Corporate Vice President Vasu Jakkal took to the company’s blog to share that it had conducted a survey to further understand what is maintaining such a gender gap in cybersecurity talent. As Jakkal wrote, “2.5 million-plus cybersecurity jobs are open — women can fill them.” However, only 25% of workers making up the industry were women as of 2021. So, what is preventing more from entering the field? One finding stemming from the study was that “Men are more likely than women (21 percent versus 10 percent) to feel qualified to apply for a cybersecurity job posting,” according to Windows Central.

Both findings listed above spell out critical problems. Not only do women make up a much smaller percentage of an industry that is crying out for new talent, but there is clearly a lack in programming offered to women and girls that would equip them with the confidence to pursue a career in cybersecurity. This, in turn, leads to the study’s conclusion that only 44% of the women who responded felt as though they were accurately represented in the industry. Additionally, 54% reported experiencing effects of gender bias. If we are truly going to shore up cybersecurity, then we need to patch this as a systemic vulnerability like we would with a network vulnerability. Like ZDNet highlighted in its coverage of this survey, data shows that diversity improves every aspect of a business from innovation to the bottom line. 

Happy International Women’s Month! You can read more about my advocacy for diversifying the cybersecurity field at https://option3.com/lisa-donnan-advocates-for-diversity-and-inclusion/.

Key Takeaways:

“Spending bill includes large funding increase to boost cybersecurity” – Rebecca Beitsch, The Hill

https://thehill.com/policy/national-security/597902-spending-bill-includes-large-funding-increase-to-boost-cybersecurity

  • The government funding bill recently submitted to President Biden included a proposed $2.6 billion budget for the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA).
  • Those total increases last year’s budget by $568 million.
  • As part of the budget, $119.5 million would be allocated for “threat hunting,” according to the article, $64.1 million would go toward “vulnerability management.”

“Microsoft uses research to find causes of cybersecurity gender gap” – Robert Carnevale, Windows Central

https://www.windowscentral.com/microsoft-uses-research-find-causes-cybersecurity-gender-gap

  • Microsoft Corporate Vice President Vasu Jakkal took to the company’s blog to share that it had conducted a survey to further understand what is maintaining such a gender gap in cybersecurity talent.
  • Only 25% of workers making up the industry were women as of 2021.
  • Windows Central explained that the study found, “Men are more likely than women (21 percent versus 10 percent) to feel qualified to apply for a cybersecurity job posting,”

“Microsoft: There’s a critical shortage of women in cybersecurity, and we need to do something about it” – Owen Hughes, ZDNet

https://www.zdnet.com/article/microsoft-theres-a-critical-shortage-of-women-in-cybersecurity-and-we-need-to-do-something-about-it/

  • The Microsoft study concluded that only 44% of the women who responded felt as though they were properly represented in the industry.
  • Additionally, 54% reported experiencing effects of gender bias.
  • Fixing this issue will not only help fill the talent shortage, but data shows that it benefits companies in many ways including innovation and profitability.
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