Around RSA

Cybersecurity - Let's Make It A Chick Thing

Oct 19, 2016 | by Elizabeth O'Brien |

Time flies when you're having fun fighting cybercriminals - we are already more than halfway through October and into the third week of Cybersecurity Awareness Month. This week's theme is Recognizing and Combating Cybercrime, which is quite literally RSA's raison d'etre. The focus this week is on the collaborative nature of fighting cybercrime as well as careers in cybersecurity.

RSA celebrated week three of Cybersecurity Awareness Month with a well-attended event for women in cybersecurity - the Hackathon. Co-hosted with Security Innovation, a leader in application security training and software security assessments, and sponsored by RSA's Women's Leadership Forum, an organization focused on the talent, contributions and continued development of women throughout the RSA cybersecurity community, the Hackathon challenged more than forty participants to find and exploit vulnerabilities in a website set up for this purpose. (Disclaimer: No actual websites were harmed in the making of this event!)

It was truly inspiring to see a room of women dedicating precious time and focusing singular energy to the task at hand, led by Janet Levesque, RSA's CISO. Unfortunately, it was also an unusual sight as women are woefully under-represented in the field of cybersecurity. Guest speaker Deidre Diamond, Founder and CEO of CyberSN, a Boston-based cybersecurity staffing and recruiting firm, shared that despite the fact that approximately 50% of professional occupations in the US are held by women, only 25% of computing roles and a mere 11% of information security roles are filled by women (source: WSC). Although there are no reliable statistics on women's representation on the other side of the aisle, a cursory google search suggests that the percentage of women hackers is likely much lower than 11%.

There are many reasons cited for this lack of gender diversity, from perceived bias against math-science careers to events (like traditional hackathons) inhospitable to women. Personally, I am fortunate to be part of RSA, which does a terrific job not only creating a welcoming and supportive environment for the women who work here, but also reaches out to the larger community to try and right the gender imbalance.

Unfortunately, not every woman who wants to work in the cybersecurity field can work for RSA - we aren't THAT big! However there are plenty of opportunities out there. So, why should women consider a career in cybersecurity?

  • It's a growing field - Symantec projects a shortfall of 1.5 million cybersecurity professionals by 2019
  • It pays better - women in Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) fields receive on average 33% more pay than women in non-STEM fields
  • It's a fascinating, ever-evolving field - cybersecurity work stories are much better cocktail party chat than other office tales
  • R-E-S-P-E-C-T - you earn it in this field
  • Cybersecurity has an outsized impact on society - imagine what we couldn't do if we didn't have secure digital channels

I invite all women looking for a career change or just entering the workforce to consider cybersecurity - let's make it a chick thing.

Want to know more about the Dark Web? Read RSA's whitepaper, 2016: Current State of Cybercrime.

Are you a woman interested in joining the cybersecurity field or fostering an interest in it in other girls or women? Forbes has an excellent post listing some available resources.