Employment in Cyber Security

Malaika Naidu

In almost any industry across the world, the job market is struggling with issues of uneven pay, vacancies and, at the same time, unemployment. One major issue with the employment market is the representation of minor groups and women.

            This blog will shed light on the Cyber Security industry and the increasing amount of job opportunities the world over. With businesses becoming more aware of the need for cyber security, there is a rise in jobs in the field. There are a couple of reasons why a considerable amount of the workforce continues to be unemployed despite the vacancies in cyber security. Some of these reasons are outlined below.

             Firstly, there is a lack of awareness of such jobs and the skills required for the same. Few people understand the scope of work in the cyber security sphere and even fewer understand the skills required. Often, potential candidates assume that cyber security jobs will be too technical and/or that they require specialised degrees. For women, the issue is that they are often discouraged from jobs in cyber security. This creates a further gap in the vacancies and the applicants for such jobs.

            But there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Of late, we are witnessing a steady change in these trends. Cybersecurity Ventures, the world’s leading research organisation and trusted source for statistics in cyber security and cyber economy, predicts that women will come to represent almost 20% of the global cybersecurity force by 2020. This number might not seem large but compare it to the current figure of about 6% and then it seems quite impressive. The number could be even higher if we include risk, privacy, and compliance and audit functions of cyber space. This is consistent with fresh research done in mid-2019 by Boardroom Insiders which states that 20% of Fortune 500 global Chief Information Officers (CIOs) are now women, the highest percentage ever.

            Even at the RSA Conference this year, the world’s largest cybersecurity event, nearly 40% of the keynote speakers were women. Such numbers contribute to a ripple tide of social change, showing other women the potential for pursuing careers in cyber security. With change in the private sector, the public sector is sure to follow soon. Though cybersecurity might be one of those few industries that the public sector will take notice of before the private sector. Security is and always will be a primary concern for governments and state-agencies.

            In terms of individual skill, as mentioned earlier, there is an underlying perception that an applicant needs to come from a technology background. While this is not wrong, it’s not the whole truth either. Like most other industries, the cyber industry also has multiple types of job roles - tech and non-tech. Industry experts believe that the tech part of the job can be learnt over time and could be required for exponential growth. However, the more critical skills are attention to detail, communication, and the ability to work across organisations and teams.

            Many people who are successful in the cyberspace industry today have learnt on the job. A common way to shift over to this industry is to start at content and editing technical documents. Another role that can be filled by someone who is from a non-tech background is scanning for anomalies and patterns. In fact, some companies prefer hiring individuals from non-tech backgrounds so that they will focus on the patterns and not on the content that they must sift through.

Interestingly, research has proven that these are skills that women naturally have or are easily able to hone. Especially when it comes to communication skills and diversity in experience. Security and safety are matters that need to be handled with deftness and care. The high stakes of cybersecurity require clear communication and follow through, and these are areas where women often excel. When advising business and other entities on their security policies, cyber specialists need to be able to emphasize the problems and solutions convincingly and often to clients from non-tech backgrounds. Women are known to handle these situations and negotiations better than men. Diversity in experience, however, is a factor that applies to both genders, not just women.

Cybercrime is fast-growing and evolving; the industry needs people from different specializations and experiences to counter it. Cybersecurity needs to tap into the experience of people from different geographies, socioeconomic backgrounds and abilities. Why? Because the goal, when looking for suspicious activity, is to be able to spot the details without losing sight of the bigger picture. If only a certain segment of people, in this case those from tech backgrounds, continue to determine cybersecurity policies, then some patterns are bound to be missed. Cyber security can never be unidimensional.

            So, companies are looking for people, who bring collaboration skills, communication, varied experiences and also emotional intelligence to this growing industry. Possibly, the scales are tipped in favour of women because they have proven to be more cautious and risk averse.

Do you agree? If not, what are your views on employability in cyberspace?
Will cyberspace continue to be male dominated? If so, why?