Managing Director, Cyber & Intelligence
Gender diversity must be more than just a buzzword that is thrown around; it needs to result in action – particularly within the cyber security sector.
Women only make up 11% of the global cyber workforce. Here in the UK, the problem is even more acute, with the proportion of women in the sector standing at just 8%, one of the world’s lowest.
As the demand for individuals with cyber security skills grows, organisations are depriving themselves of a considerable talent pool if they fail to recruit more women into cyber roles.
Gender balanced teams create diversity of thought, which in turn leads to greater innovation.
As hackers are constantly innovating and finding new ways to cause trouble, cyber professionals must be equally creative to counter their threats.
So why does there continue to be a gender gap in the sector?
Making people aware of a cyber career
According to Emily and Kara, two of Raytheon UK’s Software Engineers, people may not be aware of the career opportunities that are available in cyber security, especially for those with the correct skills, regardless of background.
“Often, people don’t choose a certain career path simply because they are not aware it exists and the work has never been demonstrated to them”, says Emily.
Initiatives like the Women in Cyber Academy (WICA) are crucial in highlighting opportunities for women like Kara, who may not have considered a cyber career in the first place.
“I am very new to software engineering, having spent many years working in academic research. I was considering career options outside of academia.
“I saw a post on social media advertising the ‘Women in Cyber Academy’”, she says. “It sounded like a fantastic opportunity.
“I got in touch with the organisers and was eventually invited to an engagement day to meet with potential employers. Following a very intensive 12-week course, I started work at Raytheon straight after”.
Always be willing to learn
Despite initiatives such as WICA, the cyber sector can continue to feel daunting, and a distant aspiration for some.
Often, it’s a perceived lack of technical experience, formal qualifications or contacts – these are the typical barriers that can hold people back from landing their dream cyber security role.
However, according to Emily, this should not put people off from applying for a cyber role.
“My advice would be to just go for it! It is an extremely interesting and challenging career choice. Every day is different with new challenges and there are great opportunities to learn and use some exciting technologies.”
This enthusiasm must be combined with a passion for learning how technology works and evolves, as well as how people interact with it.
Many of the best software developers are self-taught, for example, using the likes of YouTube to experiment on their own personal projects and practicing how to code.
“My main advice is to keep your tech skills up to scratch, make sure you have a good grasp of the fundamentals and show interest in engineering by completing your own side projects or learning in your spare time”, Emily adds.
“As a software engineer, a good understanding of programming principles and being proficient in at least one programming language will really help you get started in this industry.”
Addressing the gender gap is a collective effort
So, on this International Women in Engineering Day, it is vital for us to consider the skills that everyone can offer in countering cyber threats, regardless of background, gender or experience.
Whether you are more artistic or a scientific, your talent could be crucial in keeping the UK cyberspace safe and secure.