Let’s talk about women – and money.
Today (22nd November 2023) marks the day that women effectively stop being paid for the year. Stop being paid against their male counterparts for the same work that they do – for the rest of the year. Yes, the rest of the year, for the same roles. Happy Equal Pay Day, I guess? What’s worse is that the tech industry’s gender pay gap is 16% higher than the national average – yikes.
Shockingly (or perhaps not), 91% of tech companies pay their male employees more than their female staff. However, promisingly, more women are working in tech roles than ever before, including in cybersecurity. In fact, women now make up a quarter of the cyber workforce, up from 10% in 2013. A sizable improvement over the last 10 years, but we can do better. At this rate, it would take at least 15 more years to reach equality in industry roles. However, retention and skills shortages continue to be a cause of concern for leaders.
It may not be as bad as it seems. Optimistically, things certainly are changing. It appears, in the US, that younger women face less pay discrepancy than older women. Though 21% of Millennial women earn between $50,000 and $99,999 compared to 29% of men of the same generation. Meanwhile only 10% of women Baby Boomers earn this much compared to 30% of Baby Boomer men. Hopefully this indicates that as younger generations enter the workforce, this gap will close further.
But how can we make cybersecurity an appealing and viable career option for women when the pay gap is so huge, there’s a lack of role models and many women report experiencing discrimination? As with most things, there’s no easy or quick fix but I believe that there’s three things we can do now to safeguard, bolster and empower women in cyber.
Visibility: Women in Leadership Roles
I worry that the conversation around women in cyber is becoming tiresome, but I am continually reminded of its necessity. As I keep saying, you can’t be what you can’t see.
The 2023 Eskenzi State of Leadership Equality in Cybersecurity report found that currently only 21% of leadership roles in cybersecurity are held by women and only 17% of board member positions in cybersecurity are held by women. However small it is, women do have a seat at the senior leadership table in a fifth of cyber companies. They have influence – and many use that for good.
In my experience, women are great at creating communities to uplift each other. We’re shaking off the sexist stereotypes of the past that women are territorial and catty when it comes to power. In recent years, we’ve seen lots of influential businesses across cyber and tech use their position to empower women entering and rising up the ranks in the industry. For example, female founded cybersecurity training company CAPSLOCK recently partnered with BAE Systems to provide learners from all backgrounds with the knowledge and hands-on experience they need to join the UK cybersecurity sector. BAE Systems itself has its own Women in Cyber arm.
Change must come from the top. Which brings me to ‘active allyship’…
We cannot forget men in the quest for equality. I read a LinkedIn post earlier this week about the Women in Tech Forum’s discussion on Active Allyship. It’s worth a read! Evidently, what we need are male leaders to take a stand proactively, in the fight for equality. We need conscious and proactive allies.
It’s a no brainer, really. With a diverse team comes a breadth of views and experiences that can be invaluable to fighting cybercrime.
What does Active Allyship look like? According to the Harvard Business Review, Active Allyship involves:
- Deep curiosity
- Honest introspection
- Humble acknowledgement
- Empathetic engagement
- Authentic conversations
- Vulnerable interactions
- Courageous responsibilities
Let’s open up the conversation!
One way to empower women in the industry is through mentorship. Mentorship is about supporting and connecting people. It’s a way for, in this case, women (or men) in leadership or senior positions to impart their knowledge on those less experienced (which in no way means entry level exclusively). The relationship should be beneficial for both parties and help both people grow.
It’s important to provide women in cybersecurity with spaces to connect and network. A lack of role models and networking opportunities can often make cybersecurity appear inaccessible for women entering the industry (at whatever age, cybersecurity benefits from a wealth of cross-industry transferable skills). The Most Inspiring Women in Cyber event (by Eskenzi PR in partnership with the IT Security Guru) has connected many women over the years. It’s an event focused on forging career-spanning connections. Nominees are encouraged to bring someone who would benefit from networking with industry leaders and inspiring women in cybersecurity. It’s also held at the top of the incredible BT Tower!
So, about money… The Most Inspiring Women in Cyber Awards are looking for sponsors for 2024. We want to work with organisations who are truly passionate about change and supporting women in cybersecurity. This comes with lots of exciting opportunities that I’d love to discuss.
Think you can help? Let’s chat! Email me at [email protected]