The global cybersecurity workforce is just 11 percent women.
That’s according to a 2017 report from (ISC)², an information security industry group. Additionally, the cybersecurity firm Kaspersky Lab recently found that most women decide against careers in the field before they’re 16 years old. Those are troubling findings that should alarm anyone who cares about the state of cybersecurity in the U.S. and abroad.
Beyond the importance of equity and inclusion that all business leaders should support, if we’re going to secure our connected world, we need the smartest people working on the effort. And that means having gender diversity in the field and working harder to foster girls’ interests in computer science at a young age. How can we ever expect to meet the market’s needs if we aren’t leveraging 50 percent of the population? It’s simply supply and demand.
It’ll take time. But we can begin to increase the number of women in cybersecurity—and the number of girls interested in computer science—when marketers, educators, and the tech industry as a whole stop talking down to girls and women when it comes to all things tech. For starters, everyone should accept that there are simply no biological factors that make women less suited for tech or cybersecurity specifically. Many studies indicate that the gender disparity is driven by cultural norms, not ability.
The industry needs to make some structural changes—and hold the worst offenders accountable. In this #MeToo moment, it’s time for tech companies to reform toxic environments that can make the workplace uncomfortable—and often untenable—for women. There’s one immediate change that can help ease this problem, as sociology professors Frank Dobbin of Harvard University and Alexandra Kalev of Tel Aviv University recently wrote in Harvard Business Review. “We already know how to reduce sexual harassment at work, and the answer is actually pretty simple: Hire and promote more women,” they wrote. “Reducing power differentials can help, not only because women are less likely than men to harass, but also because their presence in management can change workplace culture.”