Our Head of Cybersecurity Consultancy Practice, North America (Principal Consultant), Luke Zbieranowski, offers his insights into the cyber security industry.
For those of us who interact with the cybersecurity market on a daily basis, it's starting to feel like we've hit a crossroads. Several disconcerting strands have come to a head, making the path ahead uncertain.
On one hand, we're walking headfirst into a skills gap that seems to be widening by the second. On the other, the cybersecurity sector is still struggling to address an issue that's been plaguing it for years – gender imbalance.
While it may be arguable that each strand is its own separate entity – and should, therefore, be looked at in isolation – I don’t think this is the best way to solve the problems that threaten to undermine the cybersecurity industry.
If anything, it seems clear that the two trends are inextricably linked and therefore, if we’re going to bring about real change in this market, we need to tackle both simultaneously.
Not a coincidence
As we've alluded to previously, there are good reasons to believe that the global shortage of cybersecurity professionals will leave two million job roles unfilled by the time 2019 rolls around (according to ISACA's 2016 Cybersecurity Skills Gap infographic).
It doesn't seem like much of a coincidence that warnings about the lack of skilled workers have become starker at a time when industry commentators are calling for organisations to put more effort into engaging with women.
One reason why women in technology may not be going on to develop careers in the sector is that they’re being deterred from doing so during their "mid-career".
Technology journalist Davey Winder, writing for IT Security Thing, recently highlighted the issue, saying that "the problem ultimately lies in the careers that people come to security from", and that more needs to be done to appreciate the reasons why women choose to enter or leave cybersecurity.
A self-fulfilling prophecy?
While the cybersecurity market is incredibly competitive, I don't think it's fair to use this as an excuse to hide behind. Yes, there's a lot of competition for each role, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't actively be encouraging more women to take pride in their careers and chase after the top jobs in the industry.
If we shy away from putting in the effort required to address the problems that exist in information and cyber security now, then we risk creating something of a self-fulfilling prophecy in the future.
To some, this may seem like an exaggeration, but I don't think so. If female technology professionals are being put off from developing careers in the sector because of a lack of support, then the situation will only become more unbalanced. Greater gender disparity will mean fewer women consider entering the profession in the future, and so the trend continues.
Turning the tables, before it's too late.
What's clear is that there's no quick fix here. To solve the problems that exist in cybersecurity, we need to put time and effort into changing the attitudes of everyone associated with the industry, from the bottom to the top.
What's the key to doing this? Well, luckily that part seems rather simple. The key is engagement.
Business leaders – the people with the power – need to make conscious efforts to encourage school-age girls to consider developing the skills required to work in technology. Engagement creates interest and breaks through barriers.
Programs like work experience, internships and 'hackathons' are a great way to offer an introduction to cybersecurity and businesses need to lead the way, in creating exciting and thought out programs.
By encouraging the female professionals of the future, we can start building the foundations of a fairer, more equal industry.
We need to give women a reason to be passionate about working in technology, but more than that, we need to show that they can work and thrive in this area.
As a Headhunter and hiring adviser, I need to keep an eye on and advise on the marketplace and ensure my clients not only have a quick fix for their hiring needs but also future-proof their businesses. The growing need for skilled Security professionals is clear but what isn’t is the fact of the candidate pool in the coming years.
Stay tuned for part 2.