The world is increasingly turning to digital, but there’s a twist: a significant escalation of digital threats. Cybercrime inflicted a trillion-dollar global business loss in 2020 alone. Compounding the danger: 57% of organizations report unfilled cybersecurity positions. The weaker a company’s line of defense, the more vulnerable it is to major damages.
At the same time, we note, some 75% of today’s cybersecurity workers are men.
There’s a huge opportunity to expand the numbers and capabilities of the cybersecurity workforce by attracting women to the field. Why hasn’t this happened? The apparent stumbling block is well known: long-standing obstacles have kept many women from entering and pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) disciplines, including cybersecurity.
Solving both of these cybersecurity challenges—the staffing shortfall and the gender-based inequity—begins with opening STEM doors to women and girls. But the effort can’t stop at early-stage access. It must gain breadth and depth as women advance in the field so that they can fully participate in cybersecurity throughout a career trajectory.
The findings of our research—including a worldwide survey of 2,000 women studying STEM subjects—underscore the hurdles to expanding the cybersecurity workforce and making cybersecurity a viable career focus for women. Importantly, our findings also reveal some surprising opportunities for significant progress.
The Dual Challenges
The global cybersecurity workforce was short some 3.5 million workers in 2021; by that count, the workforce of 4.4 million was 80% shy of the demand. Concern over the dearth of tech talent in general has been growing for years, but it’s coming to a head as organizations increasingly rely on digital. With cybercrime on the rise, the shortfall in cybersecurity is particularly urgent.
How did this immense talent gap emerge?
Partly from a mismatch of supply and demand. This is a fast-growing but nascent and dynamic field. It takes time and money to acquire the specialized education, certification, and experience required to gain expertise. As demand continues to outstrip supply, the talent gap expands. Between 2020 and 2021, it grew by 13%.
But the extreme gender differential among the cybersecurity employee base indicates that other forces are at work. Women make up 39% of the overall workforce. They account for 38% of workers in STEM jobs but only about 25% of the cybersecurity workforce.