(BPT) – The cybersecurity field is booming. According to the Cybersecurity Infrastructure and Security Agency’s (CISA) National Initiative for Cybersecurity Careers and Studies, there are over 570,000 open cybersecurity positions in the U.S. alone. With open positions increasing by 35% in the last year, there is a growing need for experts in the field. However, a significant portion of the country’s workforce may be left out.


Despite making up nearly half of the nation’s workforce, women only hold 26% of the cyber workforce. According to CIO Magazine, women of color are at an even greater disadvantage, with only 3% of computing-related jobs filled by African American women, 7% by Asian women and 2% by Hispanic women.


What’s holding women back from entering the cybersecurity field? According to a recent survey sponsored by DeVry University, women in all industries face persistent barriers to upskilling. If women, particularly in technology, lack chances to acquire new skills, they will face challenges in enhancing their performance in their present roles or advancing their careers.


Women face persistent upskilling barriers

Upskilling is crucial to future-proofing careers in an economy shaped by swift, continuous technological change, and many companies have taken note. According to the survey, nearly 80% of employers offer company-paid upskilling benefits.


However, the availability of resources does not necessarily ensure that they are accessible to everyone. The majority, 55% of the women surveyed, said upskilling is essential for their future career development. But only a meager 37% of surveyed women say they have used company-paid upskilling compared to 56% of men.


Gender seems to have a significant impact on access to upskilling resources, with 73% of men having access compared to only 56% of women. In terms of barriers, a lack of time (41%) and family obligations (35%) present the largest obstacles for women in their pursuit of upskilling. Concerningly, this lack of access to upskilling leaves women twice as likely to leave their jobs compared to men.


Who should and how can they address these inequalities and create opportunities for women in the tech industry?


“Our nation’s colleges, universities and nonprofits must create shorter, more agile processes of education and training to solve the critical workforce shortage,” said Lynn Dohm, Executive Director at Women in CyberSecurity (WiCyS). “However, higher education institutions are not alone in this effort. Corporate organizations must develop new work-and-learn models to train people on the job and embrace hiring approaches that rely less on traditional credentials and more on job-specific skills and career experiences.”


Building a brighter, equitable and diverse future

DeVry is leaning in to help address and close the gender gap in the tech industry through its Women+Tech Scholars Program. Designed to combine curriculum, DeVry’s Formula of CARE and partnerships with WiCyS and other industry organizations, the program aims to attract and retain women in tech roles.


The program offers various access to tools and resources to help women take the first step in pursuing a tech career, including mentorship, industry-related internships, job opportunities, basic CompTIA industry association membership and professional certification reimbursement assistance.


“We believe in the value that women can bring to industries that require digital talent, and financial hurdles should be the last thing to stand in their way, said Scarlett Howery, vice president of Public Workforce Solutions at DeVry. “That’s why we’re committed to helping women launch their careers in tech, providing support that’s specially designed for them.”


The Women+Tech Scholars program isn’t the only way the university is providing access and support to women in tech. DeVry also offers the Future Cyber Defenders Scholars Program, which provides DeVry and Keller students with the resources and support to succeed as cybersecurity professionals. These programs not only offer continuous pathways for women in tech today but could serve as an inspiration for other programs around the country to help build a brighter, equitable and diverse future for the tech industry.


The Women+Tech Scholars Program is open to new students who identify as female and enroll in technology programs at DeVry. To learn more about this and other programs, visit DeVry.edu.


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