Female VP of Security Initiatives at IBM Weighs in on Shortage of Women in Cybersecurity

Image source: https://fortunedotcom.files.wordpress.com/2015/07/rsz_cyber.jpg?quality=80&w=840&h=485&crop=1

Image source: https://fortunedotcom.files.wordpress.com/2015/07/rsz_cyber.jpg?quality=80&w=840&h=485&crop=1

The gender gap in cybersecurity employment is even more startling than in the tech sector overall, with just 11% of positions occupied by women, according to the ISC Foundation. This field is growing incredibly quickly (74% growth in the past five years), with 1.5 million new cybersecurity jobs available by 2020. Already, there is a shortfall of 200,000 such jobs in the United States.

Employing more women in cybersecurity could remedy this shortage, but so far few women are filling these open positions. Shelley Westman, VP of Security Initiatives at IBM, discusses a recent experience at New York University that highlighted this issue. She says she met many women who were passionate about computer science, but their negative stereotypes about cybersecurity as a male-dominated industry discouraged their involvement in this particular tech sub-sector.

According to Westman, this stereotype is simply false. Just as in other areas of tech, there is a need for creativity, innovative problem solving, policy specialization, risk analysis, and other competencies. She notably also highlights that employees need not have a technical background to fill these roles. She herself was an attorney for years who expanded her skills through her current cybersecurity position.

So, the question is, how do we get more women specifically into cybersecurity jobs? Westman suggests starting by including cybersecurity courses in high school, as well as increasingly integrating the field into university curricula. Finally, she recommends mentoring young women to encourage them to enter this area.

Westman says the way things are going means nearly half the workforce will remain excluded from these jobs. In such a critical field, including all of the top tech talent is crucial to ensuring global cybersecurity.

Source: Shelley Westman, Fortune