Written by Sandra Wheatley Senior Vice President, Marketing, Threat Intelligence and Influencer Communications at Fortinet

If you work in cybersecurity like I do, you are probably aware of two major issues within the industry: 1) there is a significant skills gap and 2) there is a lack of gender diversity. Now is the time to do something about them. Perhaps two problems can be fixed with one solution.

Currently, women are only about 25% of the global cybersecurity workforce  and in North America the gender gap is even worse—with a cybersecurity workforce in which only 14% are women. A recent (ISC) 2 cybersecurity workforce report says that “all areas of cybersecurity are affected” by staffing shortages. And the skills gap problem isn’t going away, as the (ISC)2 report also states that the global cybersecurity workforce must expand by 65% to effectively defend organizations against the ever-growing global threat landscape.

The solution too both issues is obvious, though not easy: train more women in cybersecurity and then hire them. The industry—along with society—needs to encourage women’s interest in cybersecurity by presenting them with a full picture of the opportunities available to them in both technical and non-technical roles.

Non-profit organizations like WICYS (Women In Cybersecurity) are offering resources for women looking to begin, excel, or evolve in their cybersecurity careers. WICYS has partnered with Fortinet to offer award-winning Network Security Expert (NSE) certifications and training to female members. This combined effort has the ultimate goal of preparing more women to help fill the cybersecurity skills gap. Through partnerships like these, along with training, more women can be attracted and recruited into the cybersecurity field.

Commitment to Recruiting Women

All organizations should commit to bringing more women into the industry and keep them engaged by investing in their career growth. There are numerous opportunities for women who may not have traditional IT backgrounds or career pathways. Anyone with the right aptitude and attitude can become a cybersecurity expert and enjoy their role in protecting individuals and organizations from cybercriminals.

There are many roles in cybersecurity that are multi-dimensional and varied across specializations, organizations, and industries. Consequently, executives are realizing the importance for candidates having an expansive or even eclectic mix of skills—both technical and non-technical—to fill cybersecurity roles. Many women have a portfolio of skills and experiences that in the past would be considered non-traditional for and not applicable to cybersecurity. Circumstances have change and the times are demanding the cybersecurity industry broaden is candidate pool to those who may offer different perspectives and ways of thinking “outside the box.”

Women without high technology experience but who want to give cybersecurity a shot need to be made aware of training resources available to them. Fortinet’s Training Institute’s NSE Certification Program is one such resource. It is an eight-level training and certification program that includes a wide range of self-paced and instructor-led courses, including practical, experiential exercises.

I know I’m not alone in the belief that companies should confidently recruit and hire women into cybersecurity positions, even if the candidates may have backgrounds and skills that aren’t typical cybersecurity professionals.  

Skills that Can Transfer

There are many common and uncommon skills that are transferrable to cybersecurity jobs, include critical thinking, curiosity, and problem-solving. The recent (ISC)² Cybersecurity Perception Study reveals that individuals who become cybersecurity professionals are coming into the industry via different avenues. More than half began their careers outside of information technology. Almost 20% moved from unrelated occupations in unrelated industries. The remaining 30% split evenly between arriving via cybersecurity education and via studying cybersecurity concepts independently. Therefore, I recommend that cybersecurity recruiters should try to fill openings with candidates that may not have the “perfect” degrees and backgrounds. Cybersecurity hiring managers need to be open to those with atypical experiences and resumes.

Job Satisfaction and Job Security

Women considering careers paths need to know that cybersecurity professionals have consistently expressed very high levels of job satisfaction. In a recent (ISC)2 workforce report, over three-fourths of cybersecurity professionals surveyed said they are satisfied or extremely satisfied with their work. In addition to being a job with a “higher purpose”—fighting cybercrime and making the internet a safer place for organizations and people—cybersecurity jobs also pay well.

Because the need is so great and there are so many openings to fill, salaries for cybersecurity jobs are correspondingly high. However, joining the cybersecurity industry isn’t just about pulling down a good salary. It’s also about having an impact on society and being proud to be a part of the army of “good people” trying to protect everyone’s digital life.

Clearly, women can play a significant role in closing the cybersecurity skills gap. Hiring more women in cybersecurity has many benefits for the organizations, including bringing diverse perspectives to tackling challenge problems. It’s also clear that cybercrime is not going away. Threat actors are going to keep attacking and that means “job security” because the need for cybersecurity professionals isn’t going away either.

If the industry creates more opportunities for women to join and stay in the cybersecurity field, women will see cybersecurity as a viable career choice, and then significant progress can be made in closing the cybersecurity skills gap and diversifying the industry.

Learn more about the Fortinet free cybersecurity training initiative, the Fortinet NSE Training programSecurity Academy program, and Veterans program.

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Sandra Wheatley Senior Vice President, Marketing, Threat Intelligence and Influencer Communications at Fortinet. (2022, March 24). Diversifying the Cybersecurity Industry and Closing the Skills Gap by Hiring More Women. CSO