Today, only 24% of jobs in the cybersecurity industry are currently filled by women. While women are showing increased interest in this career opportunity, limited access and opportunities for females to pursue this interest present real obstacles to their greater participation in technology-focused fields With 3.5 million cybersecurity jobs projected to be unfilled by 2025, higher education institutions have an opportunity to diversify the field and better equip students from all backgrounds to pursue careers in cybersecurity and technology. DeVry University, for example, is championing programs and curriculum focused on supporting female students by creating a path to these technology careers through educational offerings that are enhanced by comprehensive support structures.

Considering the increased need for new talent to fill the growing pipeline for technology-related careers, there has never been a more prudent time for academic institutions to rethink the way they approach STEM-related degrees to make them more accessible for diverse learners. By presenting versatile learning opportunities that suit student needs and create visibility and confidence for women, closing the talent gap becomes a tangible reality.

The resources women need to succeed in cybersecurity
Oftentimes, a lack of awareness around available learning options can mean the difference between a woman pursuing a career in the technology industry or foregoing it altogether. But awareness is only the first step in creating an environment in which women feel empowered to pursue these career tracks. Building confidence to embark on this professional journey is foundational in establishing a clear education-to-career pipeline structure for women interested in cybersecurity careers.

Leveraging programs that expose women interested in these jobs to like-minded professionals is critical. Research shows that 74% of middle school girls express an interest in tech-focused academia but only 0.4% choose computer science as their college major. While there may be less awareness around these challenges at an industry level, most academic institutions are intimately familiar with the fact that not all learners meet one archetype.

By providing support throughout a woman’s academic lifecycle, institutions can produce measurable results in addressing the gender disparity we are seeing in tech. Women may dream of pursuing a career in technology or up-leveling their current career to be more tech-focused, but it is up to educators to provide actionable solutions to get there–such as personalized career counseling combined with flexible education to help women balance external obligations. As an example, higher education institutions can elevate diverse talent through unique academic programming similar to DeVry’s Future Cyber Defenders Scholars Program, which provides aspiring and current cyber professionals with access to internships and resources to pursue or develop a cybersecurity career.

Providing access to flexible education programs empowers women to seek cybersecurity careers
Women now outnumber men in college enrollment. Despite these numbers, it is important to
acknowledge that these statistics do not accurately represent access for all learners. Adaptable programming bridges this disconnect to provide women with a toolkit to succeed, with flexibility being of paramount importance.

Curriculum that uplifts women in technology can take various forms and should be guided by current and future market trends while also acting as a springboard for continued advancement. Networking and mentorships serve as conduits that give women the chance to build connections and interest within the industry and should be incorporated in curriculum. Unique programming just for the success of female students can also make an impact. DeVry’s Women + Tech Scholars Program, established in 2021, was designed with the hope of closing the skills gap by positioning STEM more visibly in front of women and providing them the resources and guidance to pursue their career aspirations. Over the last six terms, enrollments in our Engineering and Information Sciences career pathways have increased 47% among women, and as of November 2022, the program has welcomed more than 2,000 scholars.

Without relevant partnerships, intervention and support, women will continue to struggle to find their way in the cybersecurity industry and STEM. Higher education institutions have a responsibility to support women and diverse learners in pursuit of these careers by making them aware of opportunities and guiding them every step of the way to recruit, and more importantly, retain women in the profession. Closing the gender gap in the industry is a problem we should all be invested in solving.

By Elise Awwad, Chief Operating Officer + Scarlett Howery, Vice President of Campus and University
Partnerships, DeVry University