Women in cybersecurity: Shattering the myths, once and for all

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The story of a young cybersecurity magnet who broke his youth computer and was told many times is almost a clich. He started coding in the family garage. He topped his class with a degree in computer science. He launched his own startup (even from the garage), and the rest is history.

Fortunately, this is not the only way to start a successful cyber security career. Unfortunately, the persistence of this story tends to disappoint people who don’t think they fit into the “traditional” mold. Often, this applies to women – and although some women hold degrees such as CTO, CIO or CISO, the cyber security industry is heavily male-dominated. The cyber security sector is still struggling to attract women, mostly because they have a hard time imagining themselves within it.

Women who succeed in cybersecurity should not be outsiders – especially today, at a time when the field is experiencing explosive growth and talent is in high demand. Even today’s cybersecurity companies often cite diversity as a priority, with the goal of bringing new perspectives to the table. To achieve this, it is time to dispel the myths that promote the intimidating reputation of cybersecurity and break down the false barriers to women’s entry.

Myth # 1: You need to have a computer science degree to work in cyber security

Although many people believe that cyber security is something you can potentially do Just fall into. Many cybersecurity professionals have undergraduate degrees in areas ranging from English to sociology. Some may make their debut as a sales representative or pharmacy technician. It is true that success in cyber security requires a lot of passion for this field, but that does not mean that your early years are spent in preparing and following the traditional path.

A computer science degree can be helpful, but not necessarily. This does not mean that degrees and certifications are not important – but skills can be taught. Ultimately, what defines a good security professional is how they approach problem solving. For example, a degree in mathematics or philosophy can provide a foundation for practicing logic and problem solving that translates incredibly well into cybersecurity.

Dedicated self-directed education can also help bridge any knowledge gap that hinders a cyber security career. One thing that is common to successful leaders is the desire to continue learning. If you are interested in things like programming language, malware analysis, ethical hacking or other related topics, there are ways to acquire that knowledge outside of the traditional degree program. Take the initiative – Self-training and certification can make candidates stand out as motivated achievements. An increasing number of job seekers are coming up with self-taught skills, IT-related volunteer work history and boot camp certifications. Knowledge does not just come from the university.

Myth # 2: Cyber ​​security is a special field for men

Despite the qualifications, skills and dedication to succeed in cybersecurity, women can be deterred from thinking that it is a field for men. And while it is true that men continue to dominate the field, it is not unique to them. Women currently make up about 20% of the cyber security workforce. That sounds low, but in 2013 only 11% of cyber security personnel were women – so the trend is rapidly moving in the right direction. If ever there was a time to step on the field, it is now.

This is underscored by the fact that today’s women are more likely to complete college than men, a significant turning point in gender equality and a key indicator for the future of the labor force. But despite being equipped with higher education, many women still face impostor syndrome – especially in male-dominated areas such as cyber security. Even with a track record of success displayed, they often feel inadequate. Tech leaders are traditionally referred to as masculine individuals, and it’s easy to understand why women often wrestle internally with size problems. Finding the right fit – and the right corporate culture – can make a big difference.

Companies with strong, value-based cultures that focus on professional development, support and constructive feedback are critical to success. It is also important for women to help each other, as they serve as mentors and cheerleaders for others as they enter the field. All in the industry are allies, and they will stick – after all, two-thirds of women in cybersecurity say they plan to stay there for the rest of their careers.

Myth # 3: I need to code or hack for cyber security

It is true that there are cyber security roles that require coding or hacking skills. But they are far ahead of positions that are not. Unfortunately, many cybersecurity job listings include requirements that seem to be designed for the mythical unicorn that can code, hack and understand every job in the industry. This can be especially frustrating for women, as studies have shown that they underestimate their own qualifications.

Companies need to be more flexible with their job descriptions, or many women will not apply. Potential applicants, on the other hand, should understand that although cybersecurity job listings may give the impression that only a select few are qualified enough to apply, this is not the case. The tech industry is facing a sharp talent gap, and this is the most favorable time for candidates looking to enter the field.

Today, there are approximately 600,000 filled cyber security jobs in the US alone. Jobs are open at every level, and many organizations are investing in training programs to accelerate their workforce. This is the era marked by investment in employee skills, especially in the tech sector. Gone are the days of traditional educational backgrounds; Cyber ​​security recruiters are looking for candidates who are closely related to the technical skills for the job and, above all, have the right attitude.

In the world of cyber security, any experience is a good experience. An entry-level job as a cyberthreat analyst may focus largely on reporting, but can be used in more technical support work. The industry needs talent, and there will always be opportunities to expand your role and take on new responsibilities if you want. When those opportunities present themselves, you just need to raise your hand. Sometimes, it just takes a drive for a volunteer.

Landed on the field

The field of cyber security is changing rapidly. With the right dedication, skills and support systems, today’s women are finding success in every corner of the industry. Old barriers to entry such as the need for a certain degree, the idea that it is a “male realm” or recruits with unrealistic expectations should no longer wake women up at night.

Women are lagging behind in most significant cyber security operations and innovations today. They are also expected to lag behind the industry in the next 5, 10 and 20 years. From entry-level to sea-suite, they are already at work. There is a significant opportunity for More Women play a part in that future.

No one is sure if she should pursue cyber security: it’s time to raise your hand. If you wanted to raise your hand yesterday but didn’t, raise it today. Whether it’s volunteering for a project, changing roles, or being interviewed for a job, the best way to advance your cybersecurity career is to move forward first. Whose game?

Heather Gantt-Evans is the CISO of SailPoint.

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