How Does The Young Women Cybersecurity Scholarship Program By ABF Benefit Young Women In Cybersecurity?
Cybersecurity is a booming industry that is becoming heavily relevant today. People around the world are more vulnerable than ever to getting their confidential information and resources stolen due to the increasing number of attackers online who are looking to exploit poorly protected computer systems. Thus, with so many curious and wondering people who are motivated to learn more about how these attackers work and are discovering new ways to protect themselves and others from them, cybersecurity has accrued more attention. However, there is a pressing issue in the cyber workforce and education that needs to be addressed: the gender gap.
Females in the cybersecurity industry are underrepresented and are often unrecognized. Management professor Nir Kshetri pulls up several statistics of women in the cybersecurity field around the world, and the reported percentages of women composing the cybersecurity workforce range from as much as 14% in the United States to 5% in the Middle East (Kshetri). In addition, he reports that females only compose 1% of senior leadership in internet security. With excruciatingly small numbers, the data reveals that women are scarce in the industry, whereas male workers dominate it. Kshetri suggests that the reason for such underrepresentation stems from the cultural idea that information security is “a job that men do,” which implies women are not suited for the job. To add on to his words, woman leadership advocate Jess Huang states along with supporting statistics that due to the lack of women representation and leadership in S.T.E.M. fields such as information technology, many women have burnt out, being discouraged by the fact that less of them are working alongside them, and the situation has worsened through the recent COVID pandemic (Huang).
The gender gap in information security is leaving out many opportunities for the field itself to grow and prosper. Women and men tend to have different perspectives, meaning that with the help of females in cybersecurity, new ideas and solutions could sprout from where people did not think about. One point that Kshetri makes is that women emphasize the importance of education, particularly in security, and a unique solution that they came up with is the use of online training, which he states is a “flexible, low-cost” option that would spread cybersecurity knowledge and awareness to the masses through a increasingly common means of communication (Kshetri). From personal experience, the Internet opens up gateways for students to explore how modern technology works and how it can be compromised and protected by looking at that information from different perspectives, so online education is proven to be an effective method of learning, demonstrating that females can analyze modern situations and see how cybersecurity can be spread. Women in cybersecurity would perhaps create more opportunities of growth with more ideas, and working alongside the men, they could develop well-designed solutions to combat online attackers and safely store precious information.
From a job market standpoint, female representation in the IT workforce can also bolster company growth. Facebook’s digital marketing lead Rossa Brown states that the satisfaction of customers with a company’s service depends on the company’s composition (Brown). In other words, people come from various backgrounds, and to be able to properly help them, a company must also be composed of people of said backgrounds so that they understand them better. Having female representation would add more diversity in backgrounds, allowing for security companies to be more effective in their services. Brown adds that doing so would improve a company’s reputation by reflecting the idea of inclusion in the workplace (Brown). Huang contributes to Brown’s concept, stating that women have been doing more in the general workforce to “advance diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts,” which leads to even more positive reflection for companies and customer satisfaction (Huang). Thus, without females in cybersecurity, there would be a lack of drive for inclusion, leading to less productivity and advancement for the security industry.
Despite discouraging statistics, there is one way that could help boost up the numbers of females in cybersecurity in order to improve and advance the field, and it is through sponsorships. Huang writes that having sponsorships in general would provide more opportunities for people to learn and have a foothold in creating a future career for themselves, allowing them to advance faster in their field of choice (Huang). Therefore, for those women interested in cybersecurity, a sponsorship such as a scholarship would greatly encourage them to take a step towards contributing to the information security industry, empowering them to take advantage of their chances to learn and improve themselves. Already, there are several organizations that have made opportunities for scholarships, which woman empowerment advocate Andra Zaharia points out. For example, non-profit organization OWASP Women in Application Security offers opportunities for financial support for cybersecurity education with scholarships and training (Zaharia). The Aaron Barnett Foundation could therefore follow other organizations’ footsteps by creating a cybersecurity scholarship for females, motivating them to work alongside men and break down the stigma that cybersecurity is a male profession. WIth more encouragement, more females will contribute to the workforce, leading to better solutions to develop the best defenses against cyber crime.
Brown, Rossa. “7 Benefits of Gender Diversity in the Workplace.” Workplace from Meta, 9 Nov. 2021, https://www.workplace.com/blog/diversity-in-the-workplace.
Huang, Jess, et al. “Women in the Workplace 2021.” McKinsey & Company, McKinsey & Company, 2 Nov. 2021, www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/diversity-and-inclusion /women-in-the-workplace.
Kshetri, Nir. “The Gender Gap in Cybersecurity Puts Us All at Risk for Online Crime.” Fast Company, Fast Company, 29 May 2020, www.fastcompany.com/90511054/the-gender -gap-in-cybersecurity-puts-us-all-at-risk-for-online-crime.
Moore, Michelle. “6 Reasons Why Women Should Consider a Career in Cyber Security.” University of San Diego, 13 Sept. 2021, https://onlinedegrees.sandiego.edu/women-cyber-security-reasons-to-enter-field/.
Zaharia, Andra. “35+ Initiatives to Get More Women in Cybersecurity.” Comparitech, 14 May 2021, www.comparitech.com/blog/information-security/women-cybersecurity-initiative.