The importance of gender diversity in the workplace is now better understood by businesses and industries. Engaging women and girls into roles that have been traditionally acquired by men can give a business several benefits.
For example, by engaging women, businesses can open themselves up to a wider talent pool, increased innovation stemming from different perspectives, and enhance collaboration.
Women account for 50% of the population, and by not engaging with women businesses are cutting themselves off from a huge talent base and all the benefits that come with a diverse workforce fit for a modern world.
Although there is still some way to go, we are already seeing significant changes over a short period of time. The 2017 Global Information Security Workforce Study: Women in Cybersecurity found that women only made up 11% of the workforce.
Only 2 years later, this figure has risen to 24%. This is a significant increase and suggests that the industry is successfully engaging with women and girls and giving them the tools they need to pursue a career in IT.
We talked to Tara Rubin, a cybersecurity student who has ambitions to join the field once she finishes her studies. Tara’s story is similar to so many young women looking to join the field and we believe listening to her story is a valuable way to action more ways to encourage women into the field. Let us take a look at what Tara had to say.
Q: How did you decide on a career in cybersecurity? What is it about the field that attracted you?
A: I have always been into computers and technology, but I struggled for a decade in college switching from degree to degree with no clear picture of what I wanted to do. Nothing ever felt right. I could never find my passion. This all changed when I talked to a friend studying a digital forensics degree.
Talking to this friend opened my eyes to the cyber threats faced by the world and I instantly found myself intrigued and eager to learn more. I decided to take a cybersecurity class and I was hooked from the first lesson, finally finding something I am passionate about.
What attracted me to the field the most was the immense opportunity for growth and success, as well as how desperately new cybersecurity specialists were needed in the industry. Also, as a woman, I read a lot of articles about how desperately women were needed in the IT industry, and how women should follow their dreams and not be intimidated by the status quo. IT is still a male-dominated industry and I was inspired by the opportunity to make my mark on this industry, regardless of how small that mark is.
Q: What are your plans for after you finish your studies?
A: I am currently working to finish my Associates degree in Applied Science in Cyber Security and Digital Forensics. After I finish my degree I plan to complete a couple of certifications and hopefully earn myself a position at a prestigious company based on my hard work and education.
Companies need more and more cybersecurity specialists every day, and I am optimistic that my hard work in college will earn me an opportunity with a well-known company where I can make a name for myself and have the chance to grow within the industry.
I also plan to continue my education as I pursue my professional career, working towards a bachelors and a masters degree in cybersecurity. Looking further into the future, I would also like to become a mentor to other women coming up in cybersecurity and do what I can to support women in IT.
Q: What advice would you give to young women considering a role in cybersecurity but have a lack of programming experience?
A: I have ZERO experience in programming and haven’t experienced the need to be an expert programmer at all in my current degree path. When the time comes that you will need to know programming, it will be taught to you. Everything can be taught, and everything can be learned if you apply yourself enough.
I know from experience that some of the areas of study in the IT field can be intimidating, but you just take it one class and one lecture at a time. You will be amazed at how knowledgeable and experienced you will feel after only one semester in any IT field of study. My advice is to put your studies first and believe in yourself.
It’s also worth remembering that a lot of companies prefer to hire inexperienced candidates for entry roles so you can be trained from the ground up. As we go through our studies and career, we can often pick up ‘bad habits’ that need to be unlearned later down the road, and companies often like to avoid this.
Please don’t be overwhelmed and discouraged by the amount you have to learn, you will be taught everything you need to know and a strong work ethic goes a long way.
Q: According to the 2017 Global Information Security Workforce Study, women only make up 11% of the cybersecurity workforce.
Is this something you found discouraging as you were considering a career in cybersecurity?
A: No, not at all! I viewed it as a challenge, and a chance to make my mark on the industry. Us women should not find these statistics discouraging but as an opportunity to make a change for future generations!
Ultimately I think as women we should uplift each other and offer our support to each other wherever possible. Unfortunately, cybersecurity is one of the workforces that has taken a little more time for women to make a name for themselves in, but we shouldn’t allow that to continue.
Seeing 11% just gives me the drive to turn it into 20%, then 35%, and eventually watch it grow beyond anything anyone ever thought it would be. Women such as Rosa Parks and Amelia Earhart would have not been as inspiring and successful as they became if they were intimidated by numbers such as “11%”.
Amelia said it perfectly when she stated “Women must try to do things as men have tried. When they fail, their failure must be but a challenge to others.” I am honored to take part in a revolution of women in cybersecurity, and I think all women should feel the same way!
Q: What, in your opinion, needs to be done to attract more women to the field?
A: I believe women should stick together, have each other’s back, and support each other to do what we sometimes think we can’t do. If I met a woman who was unsure if she can make it in cybersecurity and is doubting herself and her skills, I would tell her to just go take one class online or at a community college and see how she likes it, just as I did.
You just can’t allow yourself to give up. Don’t let yourself be intimated by knowledge, it’s a great thing! Many organizations support women in cybersecurity and can help with scholarships, training events, study groups, and all sorts of other amazing things.
In America there are amazing organizations such as Women’s Society of Cyberjutsu and WiCys: Women in Cybersecurity , just to name a few. These organizations and others like them have great resources and opportunities for women in the cyber field.
They often also offer mentorship opportunities, and I want to begin the process of becoming a mentor myself. It is important to encourage and support each other, so we can bring numbers like 11%, up to 50%, or even more!
If any readers would like to reach out to me for advice or just to talk, you can send me an email anytime to firstname.lastname@example.org. I am always willing to answer questions and help anyone I can, male or female. I want to see everyone be successful, and if I can assist along your path to success, I would be extremely honored. Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you want to talk to me or ask me any questions.