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Forging a Place for Women in Cybersecurity

Europe is one of the worst offending regions in the world when it comes to women working in cybersecurity, with females making up just 7% of the industry workforce and one of the biggest gender pay gaps in the world according to the Global Information Security Workforce Study. So what’s holding women back from forging a career in cybersecurity?

There are many reasons why women don’t enter into cybersecurity, be it the perception of it being a male-dominated industry, or the difficulties of overcoming stereotypes in the education system and encouraging women to study and excel within tech and security.

Infosecurity Europe 2019 seeks to address these issues and will be hosting the third annual Women in Cybersecurity networking event on Wednesday June 5. The industry will meet to celebrate the achievements of females in cybersecurity, debate the challenges around diversity and discuss career opportunities for women in the industry.

As part of this focus, and in honor of International Women’s Day, Infosecurity Europe ran a social media poll which found that over half (56%) of respondents acknowledged that there is a lack of female role models in the cyber and information security industry. If we are going to change this pattern and encourage women into the industry, then we need to focus on existing female role models.

While there may be a lack of role models, there are a number that are speaking out and making a case for women in cybersecurity. Infosecurity Europe will host an industry keynote presentation from one of the leading tech personalities in the UK today – Dr Sue Black. Recently named in the list of top 50 women in tech in Europe, Sue is an award-winning computer scientist, radical thinker, social entrepreneur and is renowned for being an advocate for women in tech.

Dr Black has spent the last 20 years campaigning for more recognition and support for women in computing and has herself acknowledged that “there are many awesome women working in these areas, but we haven’t heard about them enough. Stories about the trailblazing women that have done incredible things in technology like Dame Stephanie Shirley, UK technology pioneer, and the women recently portrayed in the film Hidden Figures, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson, have not been heard until now.”

So with so many female industry voices going unheard, where are we going wrong? The future for women in security depends on the IT industry’s ability to inspire women and encourage careers in cybersecurity. As many as 63% of those polled by Infosecurity Europe think there’s not enough guidance and support available for women wanting a career in cyber and information security.

This is concerning when Europe faces a projected cybersecurity skills gap of 350,000 workers by 2022, according to a survey by information security certification body (ISC)2, and despite figures from Cybersecurity Ventures which predict there will be 3.5 million unfilled cybersecurity positions by 2021.

During a period where cybercrime poses one of our biggest threats, the cybersecurity jobs forecasts have been unable to keep pace with the dramatic rise in cybercrime, which is predicted to cost the world $6tn annually by 2021.

With that said, women are becoming a critical factor in closing the cybersecurity skills gap, and the industry is beginning to take note, with a number of initiatives encouraging women into careers in information security, including the EMEA Women in Cyber initiative and Girls Who Code, amongst others.

By investing in education and positioning themselves for careers in cybersecurity, women could have a major impact on the industry. This is all the more significant when 61% of poll respondents acknowledged that women have less opportunity than men when vying for senior roles in cyber and information security. The industry must continue to encourage women to study and consider careers in the cyber sector and, furthermore, it should be focused on retaining the female demographic and inspiring female influencers, motivating women to drive for senior roles in their field. It is critical that women enter the field and pave the way for others who may have been discouraged by the lack of diversity.

Infosecurity Europe, now in its 24th year, takes place at Olympia, Hammersmith, London, June 4-6 2019. It attracts over 19,500 unique information security professionals attending from every segment of the industry, including more than 400 exhibitors showcasing their products and services, industry analysts, worldwide press and policy experts, and over 200 industry speakers are lined up to take part in the free-to-attend conference, seminar and workshop program. Fine out more information and registration at https://www.infosecurityeurope.com.

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