Women in the cybersecurity profession are committed to their roles for the long term, according to research data from (ISC)2. They view cybersecurity as a viable, rewarding career and a solid majority of them plan to stay in the profession until retirement. The research found that higher percentages of women in cybersecurity already planned to work in the field even before starting in the profession – and that interest in pursuing cybersecurity education is substantially higher among women under the age of 45. About two-thirds (68%) of women in cybersecurity polled by (ISC)2 say they plan to stay in the field for the remainder of their careers.
These findings come from the 2019 (ISC)2 Cybersecurity Workforce Study, which polled 3,237 individuals responsible for securing their organizations’ critical assets in North America, Europe, Latin America and Asia-Pacific. Women accounted for 975 - 30% - of overall respondents, up from 24% the year before. While men still make up a majority of the cybersecurity workforce, the growing percentage of women, and their positions within organizations, suggests cybersecurity provides a rewarding career path for women who choose to pursue it.
Despite women’s gains in the profession, however, some inequities remain. Data reveals that women in cybersecurity still face disadvantages such as earning less than men and facing more obstacles to success in the field, such as discrimination.
Pathways to Cybersecurity
Women cybersecurity professionals comprised 30% of survey respondents, an increase of six percentage points over the prior year’s survey. While additional research is necessary to more confidently predict how many women are working in the field (now estimated at 2.8 million men and women globally), survey respondents – both women and men – estimated that women comprise more than 30% of their teams.
The study also provides clear evidence that many women (63%) working in cybersecurity planned to get into the field at least as early as their college days. Only 54% of men had the same plans. It is possible that some women were interested in cybersecurity even earlier than that. In recent years, academia, nonprofits, businesses and governments have launched initiatives to draw girls to computer sciences – and STEM fields in general – at an early age and those efforts may be paying off.
Survey results reveal that women under the age of 45 had a significantly higher interest in pursuing cybersecurity education compared to those aged 45 and above (69% vs. 37%). The rate was even higher with women aged 25-34 compared to women aged 35-44 (75% vs. 60%).
Despite relatively high interest by women in cybersecurity while in college, only slightly more than half (53%) of women interested in the profession started their careers in cybersecurity. However, that number is significantly higher than the 38% of men in the cybersecurity profession who began their careers in the field.
Business Impact of Gender Diversity
The strong interest by women in cybersecurity bodes well for the overall workforce. For one thing, it increases the talent pool available for cybersecurity roles. The industry is currently experiencing a global shortage of about four million professionals, according to the Cybersecurity Workforce Study.
In addition, a more equitable gender ratio in cybersecurity teams benefits businesses, Priscilla Moriuchi, a member of the Threat Intelligence team at Apple and a non-resident fellow at Harvard Kennedy School, told Forbes in 2018. “Diversity in perspectives, leadership, and experience is good for business. The wider variety of people and experience we have defending our networks, the better our chances of success.”
Jennifer Sunshine Steffens, CEO of cybersecurity services provider IOActive, expressed a similar sentiment to cybersecurity news site Fifth Domain: Without women on a cybersecurity team, she said, “you lose out on a lot of diverse perspectives.” Boosting diversity helps organizations “stay up to speed” on cyber threats.
As a whole, the (ISC)2 study found women and men in cybersecurity report similar satisfaction levels with their work, with 69% of women and 66% of men saying they are either very or somewhat satisfied. The number is more skewed toward women in the “very satisfied” category – 34% vs. 27% of men.
The study also reveals that a majority of women cybersecurity professionals are successfully progressing in their careers. Nearly one-third (32%) say they are “exactly where I was expecting to be with my career,” compared to 20% of men. Another third (33%) of women say they are “very close” and 22% “moderately close” to where they expected to be.
Looking ahead, more than half of women in cybersecurity (53%) say they “have a good idea” of their desired career path, compared to 48% of men. Overall, women in cybersecurity seem to have clearer expectations than men in how they envision their career tracks and the level of success they’ve attained.
More women than men (22% vs. 13%) cited discrimination as a challenge they’ve experienced during their career. In other areas, such as “unclear career path opportunities,” “lack of available cybersecurity positions” and “cost of cybersecurity certifications,” men and women respondents were never more than five percentage points apart.
When asked about success they have achieved in their careers, men scored higher than women in some crucial areas often directly attributed to satisfaction and professional achievement.
Fewer women surveyed than men report achievements such as becoming a go-to specialist for their expertise or being assigned a leadership position.
Men in cybersecurity also are doing better than women when it comes to compensation.
Globally, women in cybersecurity earn less than men (average salaries of $58,488 vs. $74,082, respectively). While salaries are highest in North America, men continue to earn more.
Women get paid significantly less than men, and the differences are especially pronounced in North America and Europe, where men on average earn about $16,500 more than women. The average salary for women cybersecurity workers in North America is just under $80,000, compared to an average of about $96,500 for men. In Europe, the average salary for women is about $40,500 and for men, $67,000.
When reviewing salaries by age, women between 45 and 54 experience the smallest gap compared to men in the field.
This salary discrepancy is reflective of society at large. It is estimated that women in the United States earn about 80 cents for every dollar that men are paid.
Women continue to make gains in the cybersecurity field, with many embracing the profession as a rewarding career path that they plan to stay on until retirement. While the overall trend is positive, some issues still need to be addressed. Women in the field face more discrimination and receive lower compensation than men. If these inequities are corrected, the cybersecurity profession may attract more women. This would benefit business, by boosting diversity and attracting different points of view, and for the industry, by helping to close the workforce gap of four million workers.
Many of the findings covered in this report are consistent with data collected for the 2019 (ISC)2 Women in Cybersecurity report based on data obtained in a survey conducted in mid-2018. The data shared here provides additional insight gained from the 2019 Cybersecurity Workforce Study survey, which was conducted in mid-2019. For details on our Cybersecurity Workforce Study, including methodology, click here.
You must be a registered user to add a comment. If you've already registered, sign in. Otherwise, register and sign in.
Lots of interesting stats but the gap between the genders still exists. I have always found it amazing that women will only apply for a position if they are 90 -100% compatible with the position whilst men tend to apply at the 66% compatibility level and yet salaries are still skewed.
Very pleased to see the number of women crossing the barrier and becoming involved in Security.
Thanks for the article.
I have both read it, heard it, and researched the issues for women in 'male-focused' "businesses" in the United States. What I have found is reflected above, women are STILL paid less in the "business of cybersecurity," and to cite the ISC2 "2017 Women in Cybersecurity Report," men are NINE TIMES more likely to get promoted than women.
Hey guys, if the REVERSE were true, would YOU want to happily flock to join the ranks? I don't think so. I think that your actions would be like what is reflected in the report, "Women in Technology, the. Facts," that women are LEAVING technology at a MUCH GREATER RATE than men. They have had ENOUGH of bad treatment and low pay
After watching (and experiencing time and again) the structural discrimination, societal biases, plus harassment, low pay, isolation, diminuition of self-esteem and generalized vision that 'Leadership equals Male,' I see only ONE THING that will structurally change the "business" of cybersecurity to make it more welcoming and equitable for females.
Doctor J. Shuyler Buitron
Doctor of Computer Science in Cybersecurity
CISSP for over fifteen years
Senior Cybersecurity Lead
Quoting from above: "This salary discrepancy is reflective of society at large. It is estimated that women in the United States earn about 80 cents for every dollar that men are paid."
This fact is DEPLORABLE. Cyber work is intellectual work. People do not buck 2000 pound trees into rivers after cutting them down in this work. I know women who have LEFT CYBERSECURITY being sick of low pay and mistreatment. I have the peer-reviewed studies that show how badly women are treated in tech and cyber.
My first 'cyber manager' had a BS degree in 'Sports Movement. A later manager has a BA in English, he went and took a Coursera course in AWS and became a director right after. In the 2017 Frost & Sullivan report on women in cybersecurity, the percentage of females in management was less than one-tenth of one percent. That is due to 'gender segregation' in line with 'societal norms.' Society itself is not leaving behind the old ways of viewing women as in the 1950's (and earlier). Society is not changing rapidly enough to treat females as 100% equal to males in tech and cyber.
There are not enough males to fill the 'talent gap.' The disparity of professionals to do the work will continue until women and people of all backgrounds are treated fairly in cybersecurity, and can see that change HAS happened. Get with it, folks. Change starts with you.
If you want peer-reviewed papers by Ph.D. and doctorate-level folks that back up what I 'say,' private message me. I can pretty much paper your house with the research that I have.
Doctor J. S. Buitron, DCS
CISSP, Doctor of Computer Science in Cybersecurity