The gender imbalance in ICT is a subject of much debate. Recently, MP Chi Onwurah told the House of Commons that between 2001 and 2011 the percentage of tech jobs held by women in the UK declined from 22 per cent to 17 per cent; and the number of women enrolled in technology training courses had not changed for 30 years.
The situation is similar in other parts of the world. The percentage of computer science degrees awarded to women is only around 18 percent in the US. India, whose recent prominence on the world stage is greatly attributed to the growth of its ICT sector, has perhaps done a better job of attracting girls and women to study ICT — 40 percent or more of computer science degrees are awarded to women — but attrition as women move up in the organisation is a major challenge.
Across the EU too, only 30 percent of the ICT workforce is female, with the percentage falling in decision-making positions. The situation is even more dire as one drills down into the infosecurity sector; only 7 percent of the UK infosecurity workforce is female.
But why is it so important to have more women in infosecurity?
First, there is the economic argument. A global infosecurity skills shortage is impacting the world economy and it is estimated that demand for professionals is expected to increase to nearly 4.2 million by 2015 globally (1.15 million in EMEA). The female talent pool can play an important role in alleviating the problem. Furthermore, the profession offers stability, career progression, job satisfaction and excellent salaries which women should be able to benefits from. After all increasingly, women are primary and co- breadwinners in many families.
Women bring a different set of skills, strengths and approach that can contribute to furthering the objectives of the infosecurity profession. Take design for instance; anecdotally, it is widely acknowledged that women have a natural disposition towards it. They can also be more overtly empathic, protective, intuitively risk-astute, money-wise and nurturing. In today's service-orientated IT, app culture and borderless digital environment, these qualities are required in furthering security in society as a whole.
There is no doubt that women have different priorities from their male colleagues as they balance family and work life, but technology today enables the work force across the board (not just in infosecurity or IT) to achieve this balance, regardless of gender.
This cannot be the reason for women not to play an active role in the profession, or not to be offered opportunities to hold positions of power that can influence the way in which the profession evolves. Clearly, given the wide gender gap that exists today, we need more women role models and the support of our male colleagues to further this cause.
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