Currently, students have an immense opportunity to choose the courses that they want to pursue in college freely. The career path is liberal as compared to a few years ago. Many factors direct the decision of an individual to choose a particular course such as the general interest, job outlook, background, time commitment, and personal interests. Additionally, statistics show that significant courses consist of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). However, of these significant courses, women are still under-represented. Although the number of women in STEM is currently higher than in the past, they are still the minority in this field. In particular, cybersecurity under the STEM field is a significant issue today, and the female gender still underrepresents it. The cybersecurity field is vast and lacks enough experts to handle emerging issues since they are ever-evolving. Therefore it is essential to understand the best way to add women to the STEM field and how it is beneficial to the cybersecurity field.
Cybersecurity issues continue to destabilize the internet and other related technologies, thereby causing a ripple effect through various industries. Therefore, to fight this adverse effect, there is a need to continue educating individuals and build enthusiasm for the cybersecurity field. However, for an extended period, the cybersecurity industry is male-dominated, and few women are recognized in this field. The main problem is not having many men but a lack of enough women. Currently, the gap has been noticed, and various groups are working to reduce it by prioritizing women in this field. Besides, these groups are working on empowering women to become familiar with the STEM courses, which was not common a few years ago.
Statistics show that in the STEM field, women are less than 25% in the United States. Besides, data provided by the US National Science Foundation showed that between 2006-2014 women graduating from computer science were declining. The numbers are discouraging since cybercriminals are always attempting to hack various institutions that are sensitive. To meet the emerging challenges, the world needs well training and a growing pool of skilled individuals in the digital world. Cybersecurity can be taught from a young age to trade schools or colleges. According to Heilbrinner (2013), more women are earning doctoral degrees in fields such as biology than any other time, but women are still underrepresented in areas such as cybersecurity.
The majority of the reports presented speak of the gender gap is excellent and needs to be closed due to various benefits. Additionally, there is a severe talent gap since 53% of organizations report a problematic shortage of skills in cybersecurity. Besides, scholars state that having more females in the cybersecurity field would boost the industry and offer solutions to companies that need top talent. According to research, women in this field are generally more educated than men, and a large portion of them climb the position ladder at a high rate; hence it is vital to have more women in the STEM field.
Moreover, adding more women to the STEM field brings a different perspective to the cybersecurity table. Diversity indeed provides benefits for most industries. According to Priscilla Moriuchi, the Director of Strategic Threat Development, there is a need for people with disparate backgrounds to work in the field since the major threat comes from individuals with a wide variety of experiences and backgrounds. Hackers have different motives and are both male and female; hence the input of both genders is vital to stop the unauthorized access based on the hackers’ perspective. For instance, if a hacker is a woman, it will be easier for the cybersecurity worker to stop their activities since there is a high probability of having a similar perspective.
Another significant advantage of adding more women to the STEM field is the ability to change the status quo. For individuals that are not in the cybersecurity field, there is a perception that it is a “techie” oriented industry and is suitable for men more than women. The stereotyping of the domain is a societal problem that makes it hard for girls to join the field. Unfortunately, the perception is not only from outsiders but also from an insider. For instance, Lisa Kearney, the founder of Canada’s Women Security Society, recalls when a male workmate told her that she should not bother attending the meeting is it was more technical. It is worse if one does not have a support system or notable role models that impact their confidence to see themselves successful in the cybersecurity space. Aspiring for something one has not seen is very hard; therefore, there is a need to inspire more women to join the STEM field.
The provision of learning and growth opportunities adds up to reasons why it is beneficial to add women to the STEM field. As stated earlier, women in the cybersecurity field are reported to be better educated than male colleagues. According to statistics, 44% of the men in cybersecurity contain postgraduate degree while 52% of women have the same degree. The statistics show that gender diversity brings about learning opportunities and growth. Therefore, organizations and the entire workforce can benefit from the recruitment of ambitious and highly qualified women.
Factors Impacting Women Participation in Cybersecurity
To understand the various strategies to attract women into cybersecurity, there is a need to know what are the factors impacting their participation in the STEM field. Firstly, many individuals believe that the gender gap in the STEM field is a result of biological differences between women and men. Research shows that, on average, the brain of a man is larger than the woman’s brain. However, there is no scientific proof that there is a difference in intelligence between the two sexes. In a study conducted with newborns, the scientist found out that the girls paid more attention to a face as compared to the boys. Besides, emotionally charged experimental images showed that women used nine sections of their brains as compared to men who used only two sections. The scientists conclude that biologically, women are inclined to excel well in disciplines that need connection and communication. As a result, many assume that men are naturally better in science and math, which is not usually the case. If at all, this is the case, the trend in the gender achievement gap could be the same across countries, but it is not the case currently. Therefore, biological believe by most people might be misleading many women to venture into STEM-related fields.
Media that spread words that tell the girls they are not expected to be excelling in mathematics and the science world surrounds us. For instance, the comic strips produced constitute a significant illustration of the general stereotyping of the scientific world. Additionally, T-shirts, news reports, and even toys spread the same message that girls do not do well in math. Having such words from an early age can be detrimental to the growth pattern of the girls leading to a poor interest in the STEM associated fields. The basic purchase of toys for the kids is one of the main areas that parents begin influencing their children to have a different perspective towards the STEM field. Take a look at the toys provided for the boys are mainly sports equipment, vehicles, while for the girls, it is oriented around domestic items, dollhouses, and dolls. Judging by the nature of the toys, the boys are prepared for interests and activities outside their homes, while for the females, they are oriented towards childcare and homemaking.
Another factor is the stereotyping that initiates at home. The beliefs of the parents regarding the child’s math aptitude have been noted to impact the achievement of their children directly. For instance, research shows by the time children are in middle school onwards to high school, the parents already believe that the boys are better in mathematics than the children. According to Gunderson et al. (2011), the stereotyping by adults in terms of math and gender dictates the expectation for the girls and boys, which eventually leads to varying achievements and attitudes for the children. Once the children take up the beliefs from the adults and their parents, they start forming the stereotype that the female gender is inferior in mathematics.
Mothers are vital players in the habits and perceptions that children have while growing up. According to Jacobs (1992), the mother’s attitude in domains such as science and mathematics directly affects the children’s perception. The author argues that children will always state the perception they gained from their parents. Therefore, mothers can significantly influence the achievement of their children in mathematics. A direct link is hence formed when the mothers are affected through stereotyping by the media and go-ahead to form a negative perception about their daughters’ STEM abilities. Finally, it is essential to note that stereotyping about women and knowledge in mathematics send damaging signals to the girls and creates a culture that keeps recurring through the different generations.
Ways to Attract More Women to STEM Cybersecurity
Statistic projections state that by the year 2022, the cybersecurity industry will be facing a shortfall of about 1.8 million professionals. Therefore, there is a need to have increased efforts to find and train more individuals in this field. In particular, it is advocated to train more women in the area who are 11% in the cybersecurity workforce. The paper has highlighted various factors an challenges that hinder the attraction of women and girls to the STEM field and, in particular, cybersecurity. However, it has been noted that there are a number of similarities present between the characters these girls and women look for in a career and what the cybersecurity profession has to offer.
According to Ambareen Siraj, the founder off national Women in cybersecurity (WiCys), passion is the driving force for any job that anyone has. She argues that women need to understand that cybersecurity is dynamic, and one keeps learning every day women are known to have an interest in learning more than the male colleagues and cybersecurity offers that opportunity. Therefore, the author encourages women to consider choosing cybersecurity as their career path since it is exciting and provides room for growth. Additionally, for the few individuals that believe that cybersecurity is boring is a result of a lack of understanding of the various roles in the field. Women in cybersecurity can take multiple roles, such as policy development, technical work, and becoming trainers.
Cybersecurity offers numerous ways to help society, and therefore there is a need for more women to join the field. For instance, healthcare today uses so much technology to sustain and monitor the lives of many individuals. It only takes one individual with bad intentions to exploit the vulnerability in the healthcare system and bring an entire operation down hence killing very many patients. According to research, very few women knew how they wanted to make a difference in society through their careers. However, experts in the field are encouraging women to take charge of the cybersecurity field since it’s among the top careers that are making a change in society.
Moreover, more women should be enrolling for the STEM courses and, in particular, cybersecurity as a way to challenge the stereotypes. Cybersecurity experts are appealing for a change in the media portray of cybersecurity personnel. For instance, in the movies, cybersecurity professionals are shown to be nerdy guys that sit in a dark that is surrounded by computers with a social life. Women are social beings and do not view their lives to compose such a characteristic. Additionally, the media mainly report cases of bad guys associate with the cybersecurity field, but fail to state how some researchers are making impacts in the area. Plans are, however, underway to educate the young girls and dispel the stereotype of cybersecurity. Finally, the field offers job security and flexibility for women since they can work at home and cater to their families while still making a living.
Indeed there are various benefits for cybersecurity associated with adding more women to STEM field courses. The society is growing, and students have the liberty to choose any course they feel is suitable for them. However, statistics show that there is still a huge under-representation of women in the STEM field. Research shows that there is a decline of individuals choosing the course, and projections show that by the year 2022, the domain will lack 1.8 million individuals. Therefore, it is important to understand the factors that are impacting the participation of women in the STEM field, more so in cybersecurity. Among the factors identified are the stereotyping from the parents and the media. In particular, mothers play a massive role in creating a perspective on their daughters. Additionally, biological evidence shows that the male brain is more significant than the female brain, but there is no direct link to differences to their intelligence. Therefore, the natural assumption that males are more accustomed to math and science than females creates a false assumption that has been passed through generations. Attracting women to enroll for STEM courses such as cybersecurity involves tackling various factors such as the stereotyping in the media industry. Additionally, cybersecurity offers a vast range of roles, making it interesting for women to be part of. Finally, job security and flexibility is a significant way that the cybersecurity profession offers to female
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