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How to Attract and Retain Women in Cybersecurity

In the rapidly evolving world of cybersecurity, where digital threats continue to escalate, ensuring a more innovative and resilient workforce means that diversity and inclusivity are more crucial than ever.

Recent research from (ISC)² shows that women make up only 24% of the cybersecurity workforce. The same research shows that while 30% percent of the female workforce is under 30 years old, that percentage drops significantly to 13% of the female workforce being 39 or older.

This tells us that the challenge is not only to attract women to the field of cybersecurity, but to also ensure their long-term retention. Here are some strategies and insights that any company can use to make a difference.

How to Attract Women to the Cybersecurity field:

Recognition of female colleagues and female industry leaders on your company's social media channels (and not only during Women's History Month). There is no lack of role models in this industry, and giving visibility to female talent can inspire women to enter the field.

Improve recruitment practices by:

  • Ensuring that your job descriptions are written in an inclusive manner – there are many tools (such as the Gender Decoder) and strategies to revise your job descriptions, but a few key concepts to remember are: avoid using gender coded words (for example, key words like ‘assertive’, or ‘dominant’) , highlight benefits that would be attractive to a female candidate (such as remote work, paid leave or Family Planning and Fertility Benefits) , and emphasize your company’s commitment to diversity and inclusion.
  • If a female candidate is interviewing with your company, ensure that a female interviewer is included in the interview panel - having the ability to interview with a female and learning more about the company's culture from a female perspective can give a candidate clarity and assurance about cultural fit.

Take steps towards having female presence in every level in the company, from individual contributor, to management, senior management and beyond. It is very encouraging for a female candidate and female colleagues to see hard evidence that the company welcomes and promotes female professionals.

Promote mentorship of female professionals - this is a wonderful way to give back to the cybersecurity community and make a difference. Giving a female professional exposure to real-world cybersecurity experience can lead to more female professionals being interested in pursuing a career in cybersecurity, whether it be in your company or other companies.

How to Retain Women in Cyber:

Create a Women in Cybersecurity Employee Resource Group - At Echelon Risk + Cyber, we have created a WIC ERG to build a sense of belonging, as well as to create a safe space for women professionals and allies to share ideas about how to further develop our culture and give back to the cybersecurity community. The creation of this group also built executive awareness, and indirectly contributed to doubling the number of women in the firm over a three-month period.

Provide a clear path to success - ensure that women (as well as all employees) have a clear path to achieving their long-term career goals, as well as awareness of what it takes to continue growing professionally within your company.

Professional Development - this includes investing in your female colleagues’ continued education, whether it be through certification and conference costs, or simply by empowering a female employee to lead various initiatives and projects.

Achieving gender diversity and equity in cybersecurity is not just an ethical imperative, but also a strategic necessity. The journey to attract and retain women in cyber demands proactive efforts from various teams, organizations, and the industry at large. However, there are efforts that any of us can take to make a difference. By cultivating inclusive environments, offering mentorship and career development opportunities, and redefining recruitment practices, we can pave the way for a future where women thrive in the cybersecurity field.

More Resources on Women in Cybersecurity

Did you catch our Women In Cyber webinar? If not, you can watch the recorded version for some fantastic insights shared by our team and some awesome women leaders in cybersecurity. We brought together some of the brightest female minds in the field to chat about their experiences as leaders and get their tips on grooming future leaders and making the cybersecurity world more inclusive.

Take a look at the full webinar here.

Women in Cybersecurity: Paving the Path for Future Leaders

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