Challenges of Women and Non-Binary Individuals in Cybersecurity
Ways for women and Non-Binary Individuals to succeed in Cybersecurity
Cybersecurity undoubtedly is a fascinating, fast-paced, and rewarding field. But only a small fraction (approximately 24%) of the talented professionals in Cybersecurity is women and genderqueer people. For those looking to start a career in this field, the imbalance may be sufficient to give some pause. They may wonder if it will be harder for them to succeed in this field or find it challenging to navigate a male-dominated field.
“Women and genderqueer or non-binary people of the community still face harassment both in the office and online,” says the owner of Allegro Solutions, Karen Walsh. “Most of the tech companies still lack policies to promote women and have cultures rooted in sexism.”
Though there’s room for improvement within the field, it doesn’t mean Walsh recommends steering clear.
Walsh says, “The community and the support for those who have different career paths and identities is something that you rarely see in most of the industries.”
“I have worked in academia, banking, and insurance. The infosec community is the one that has been the most welcoming from a professional and personal level,” she added.
How can a Woman succeed in Cybersecurity?
As a woman or non-binary individual, if you want to leave your footstep in Cybersecurity, consulting established individuals in this field is highly recommended.
Find Your People
With such a lopsided balance in representation, there is a strong culture of mutual support and compassion around women and non-binary individuals in Cybersecurity.
“It’s easier to make connections and networks with other women in cybersecurity because there are an immediate common platform and inherent bond,” says Brookelynn Ritter, business operations manager at Curricula. “I haven’t met another woman in the field who isn’t willing to offer help or guidance. Camaraderie comes before the competition in this industry.”
“We all have a story about how and why we give up on this industry, and it was mostly not fate or an accident; it was on purpose. It requires dedication, patience, and probably some trips through the trenches,” she added.
Pay it Forward
As mentorship plays a vital role for women and genderqueer people in Cybersecurity, it is also essential to support those around you as you find success.
“Get out and inspire the next generation,” advises Director and Cybersecurity Consultant of Neon Circle, Chelsea Jarvie. “If she can see it, she can become it-is so true, and we all need to be ambassadors for the Cybersecurity industry.”
Chelsea Jarvie encourages those who are established enough to guide the next generation of young and enthusiastic women that working in this field is a viable option, and others like them have succeeded.
“In the next 10 or 15 years, we will hopefully have a diverse cybersecurity workforce.”
Explore and determine your Niche
Cybersecurity is a vast technical field covering a growing range of specialized roles and focuses on various areas. Although the variety may seem intimidating as you start exploring the field more, that variety can also help you in the long run. There are ample opportunities to discover your work expertise in areas such as cloud security, infrastructure security, penetration testing, data privacy, encryption, and more. And that deep expertise could help you to be successful.
“It’s essential to be familiar with how vast and varied the industry is, and pick a niche that you find particularly interesting,” suggests Ritter. “It’s easier to become successful and earn respect as a ‘growing expert’ than as a generalist.”
Enhance your Knowledge
“Continuing education is the cornerstone of your career, and what you learned during your degree program is only the foundation to your industry knowledge,” says Stacy Eldridge, founder of Silicon Prairie Cyber Services LLC.
Eldridge elaborates that keeping up with the latest trends, methods, and technologies and keep learning are essential. Learning always doesn’t mean registering for expensive additional classes.
“There are plenty of podcasts, blogs, and vlogs available from Cybersecurity thought leaders who are on the front liners churning out content that keeps you on the top of your game and prepares to face the next challenge, Eldridge states.
As a minority within a very homogenous industry, unfortunately, you may be slighted or judged unfairly either consciously or unconsciously by biased colleagues. Many will underestimate your expertise based on their biases, where you do not fit into their particular image of a cybersecurity expert.
Ritter shares that she has often seen plenty of men in this field who admit they lack expertise and be perceived as better suited to choose topics such as infrastructure and network security more quickly than their female counterparts. That can be a significant source of frustration, and consequently, many women in the field tend to go beyond to compensate.
“Imposter syndrome is real, but don’t allow it to hold you back,” advises Jarvie. “Even if you feel you belong to the minority, you’ve worked hard to secure a seat at the desk, so be heard and enlighten people with your knowledge and insight.”
“Having a mentor can help you when you doubt yourself, hence get one. Gender is not an issue as long as it’s someone who will support as well as challenge you,” Jarvie adds.