Microsoft's Commitment To Addressing the Gender Gap in Cybersecurity
Women accounted for just 25 percent of the global cybersecurity force in 2021, according to Microsoft.
To try to shed some light on the cause of the disparity, Microsoft commissioned a gender gap survey and found that 56 percent of women responders said they are not properly represented in the industry.
"A lack of representation can then reinforce the gender gap by dissuading women from entering cybersecurity," said Microsoft's Vasu Jakkal, corporate vice president of security, compliance, identity and management, in a post this week celebrating Women's History month. "More women than men (54 percent versus 45 percent) say there is gender bias in the industry that results in unequal pay and support. It's extremely important to break through biases that limit women's career options."
The survey also pointed out that the bias is not only coming from men. In it, 71 percent of women said they view cybersecurity as "too complex" of a career path, compared to just 61 percent of men. And only 10 percent of respondents say they are qualified for a cybersecurity position, compared to 21 percent of men. Further, 27 percent of women see men as a better fit for a tech job, compared to just 21 percent of men who think men are a better fit.
Bias coming from female respondents is very disheartening to hear for Jakkal, who studied electrical engineering before taking a cybersecurity position with Intel. The study points to the bias being formed early, with 31 percent of women respondents indicating that parents are more likely to steer men towards tech careers.
Jakkal said that the cybersecurity industry and its 2.5 million current vacant job openings would benefit strongly from more women entering the career field. She pointed to a Cloverpop study that said gender-diverse teams make better business decisions 73 percent of the time.
She also indicates that she is an example of how the industry could benefit from different perspectives:
For myself, I've come to understand that my unique set of experiences has tremendous value in the collective wisdom of my chosen field. And I have enjoyed overwhelming gratification in the work I do and the positive impact I can have in the world. So, to anyone considering a career in cybersecurity, I say go for it!
Microsoft, for its part, has partnered with other organizations to help support women entering the cybersecurity field. Some of the highlights include:
- Girl Security: A program that focuses on identity-centered learning for women and other gender minorities. The program starts in high school and continues afterward with professional development and skill building.
- Microsoft Women in Security: An internal program that helps build a community of women in cybersecurity through professional training and events.
- Women in Cybersecurity (WiCyS): An international organization that promotes women in the cybersecurity workforce through professional development programs and job fairs.
- Microsoft DigiGirlz: Provides hands-on workshops and talks by Microsoft employees for high school girls to foster interest in careers in technology.