The 2017 Global Information Security Workforce Study: Women in Cybersecurity revealed some hard truths. Women make up only 11 percent of the cybersecurity workforce, and in 2016, women in cybersecurity careers earned less than men at every level.

The report also found that when women feel valued in the workplace tend to have benefitted from leadership development programs. 

“When women feel valued, they are more successful,” says Joyce Brocaglia, CEO with Alta Associates and Founder of The Executive Women’s Forum (EWF) on Information Security, Risk Management & Privacy. That success comes when women are provided with a culture that’s based on trust and interactive and when they are mentored.

Women add diversity

It takes diversity to solve complex problems, and there may be nothing more complex than the problems faced by cybersecurity and IT professionals. Hackers are a diverse entity, and a diverse workforce is necessary to thwart their attacks. Bringing more women into cybersecurity can offer new ways of looking at attacks and approaches to mitigate them.

“Think of yourself as a leader and a mentor and mentor others as early as possible because by teaching you learn yourself.”

The biggest roadblock women in cybersecurity face is the gender bias, and it is at virtually every level. Artificial intelligence, for example, is designed with a gender bias in the data set and that skews the results. Cybersecurity legislation is often crafted with a similar gender bias. 

“One of the greatest achievements of the EWF is creating a symposium for women in cybersecurity on Capitol Hill,” says Brocaglia. “Over the past two years, the symposium has brought 250 women in for bipartisan sessions, and that has resulted in using the EWF as a conduit for increasing women’s participation in cybersecurity legislation.”

More than coding

What’s exciting about a career in cybersecurity is the number of opportunities available. There are high-tech options, but professionals are needed in training and awareness, in marketing and dealing with big picture strategies. Every industry, every level of government, and even our personal lives are at a point where cybersecurity is a requirement. 

When people think of cybersecurity, they think of it only in terms of stopping hackers, explains Brocaglia, but that’s just one area. “Everyone I know in cybersecurity is incredibly passionate so there are plenty of places to find a passion,” she adds. 

Advice for newcomers

If you are considering a career in cybersecurity, Brocaglia has three points of advice.

First, have confidence in yourself and your ability and step into your power as early as you can to express that confidence. Second, seek out mentors and sponsors. “Sponsors are the men and women in your own organization who can help you and spend their own political capital to help your career,” she says.

Finally, be active in professional organizations where you’ll interact with a diverse group of executives who will recognize talent and give you projects and give you opportunities you may not otherwise have.

“It’s never too early to think of yourself as a leader,” Brocaglia advises. “Think of yourself as a leader and a mentor and mentor others as early as possible because by teaching you learn yourself.”