Exploring the causes of women’s low participation in Cyber Security careers

Exploring the causes of women’s low participation in Cyber Security careers

Cyber Security Women in Cyber Security
Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet

Composite image of a person using a pencil to touch floating text in the air.

Low representation of women in cyber security careers is a pressing issue for Australia’s national and economic security. Women comprise just 11% of the world’s cyber security workforce globally, and just 10% in the Asia-Pacific. As the worldwide gap between qualified security professionals and unfilled positions climbs towards a projected 1.8 million by 2022, attracting and retaining women in cyber security professions is a crucial part of ensuring Australia’s cyber resilience.

The Women in Cyber Security Literature Review explores underlying causes of women’s low representation in the cyber security industry to date, and provides research-based suggestions about how to create a more gender diverse workforce. The review was undertaken by UNSW Canberra’s Public Service Research Group and the Australian Centre for Cyber Security on behalf of the Office of the Cyber Security Special Adviser.

Following on from our Women in Cyber event on International Women’s Day, we wanted to see if the perspectives and stories we heard from the women and men who generously gave their time, were supported by the available academic literature.

The review found that women in cyber security across the world encounter a number of barriers:

  • Discrimination and stereotype bias are widely reported with many women perceiving that their opinions and technical expertise are not valued.
  • Persistent wage inequality, which is more pronounced at the lower and middle ranks of corporate hierarchies, where most women in the industry are clustered.
  • ’24x7’ work culture of cyber security, particularly for workers with caregiving responsibilities.
  • Perceptions of stalled or stagnant careers round out the most widely reported barriers and reasons for women’s attrition from the STEM and ICT careers.

Additional research is required to explore these issues further and to develop a baseline survey of the number of Australian organisations participating in cyber security, their demographics and processes.

In the short term, we will again be hosting our Women in Cyber mentoring program with events across Australia to show women who competed in the 2017 Cyber Security Challenge Australia the breadth and depth of cyber security careers and provide them with support and mentoring opportunities. Longer term, we will continue to develop a coherent, action oriented plan of practical initiatives, research proposals and measurement tools to increase the number of women in cyber security careers.

We are also interested in any thoughts or perspectives on the literature review and are always keen to hear if you are undertaking research or activities of your own. Get in touch via cyber@pmc.gov.au.