International Women’s Day is a timely reminder that the technology industry still has a lot of work to do to bridge the gender divide. Martha Lane Fox, Chancellor of the Open University, recently criticised the lack of gender diversity in the UK’s tech industry, saying it was “still terrible” and has not progressed in 25 years. Now more than ever, it is critical to address this badly missed opportunity and encourage girls to study STEM subjects, enable women to have successful careers in tech, and power the digital economy.
To attract all types of women into a career in cybersecurity, we need to consider all life stages when breaking down the gender barriers. This means creating paths for women who are embarking on their careers, want to change jobs or return to work, as well as partnering with schools to help encourage young girls to consider a future career in cyber.
Cybersecurity represents a major growth area for careers in technology. Yet despite fast becoming one of the most important fields in the sector, women currently only make up a quarter of the global cyber workforce, according to Cybersecurity Ventures. This is coupled with the prediction there will be 3.5 million unfilled cybersecurity jobs globally by 2025.
With an annual shortfall of 14,100 cyber security personnel in the UK alone, according to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), talent across entry, mid and advanced-level jobs are all in high demand. The cybersecurity industry offers future-proof career opportunities and a range of attractive benefits, including above average salaries, high job satisfaction and significant career progression and development. According to the same DCMS report, around one in six technology sector jobs are in cybersecurity, so the prospects really are immense.
Given bad actors use a multitude of means to constantly devise and carry out cybercriminal activities, it is critical that different types of people are recruited to combat these fast-evolving cyber threats. And that includes gender. Inevitably, a more diverse group of people, with different ways of thinking, will create and deliver better, more powerful cyber solutions. That’s why it’s so important to motivate women from different backgrounds to consider a career in cybersecurity and bring that true diversity of perspective and experience.
The route to a lucrative job in technology is possible through industry learning opportunities such as the Cisco Networking Academy, which is one of the world’s longest running digital skills-to-jobs programme that provides an educational pathway to meaningful work.
Through Cisco’s Skills for All programme, several free cyber courses are available through a learner-centric platform to allow students anywhere, anytime to begin their upskilling journey, whether the goal is basic skill acquisition or certification for job-readiness. There are also instructor-led programmes run across the UK, such as ‘Women Do Cyber’ — a partnership between Cisco, Scottish Women in Technology (SWiT) and Glasgow Caledonian University, which helps women to achieve qualifications in cybersecurity.
Cybersecurity courses were some of the most popular across our instructor-led and self-paced learning programmes in 2022, with over 15,000 Networking Academy students. These ranged from Introduction to Cybersecurity and Cybersecurity Essentials to Cloud Security and Network Security. With cyber-enabled job postings increasing by 66 per cent, and greatest demand for entry level positions (37 per cent), there are a multitude of exciting and well-paid job opportunities at all levels in this field. These include threat hunter, network defender, security administrator, cybersecurity analyst, incident responder, forensic analyst and auditor.
In this era of polycrisis, cybersecurity was highlighted as a top concern at Davos 2023. And where there is threat, there is opportunity. Governments and businesses worldwide are tackling cyberthreats of all kinds daily and urgently need more skilled people to help keep these increasingly sophisticated attacks at bay. Let’s mark this year’s International Women’s Day by inspiring a new generation of women and girls to take on the bad actors and become the cyber heroes of today and tomorrow.
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