The Gender Gap: Stereotypes and Realities
What image comes to your mind when the word “Cyber” is mentioned? Is it something like this:
A dark, secluded room filled with disheveled young guys in grey hooded sweatshirts, their face illuminated only by the dim light of their laptops… Dealing with shady, even dangerous types over the web, and spending long nights glued to their screens, in dead silence… Handling tedious, complicated technical stuff …
Sounds pretty intimidating, doesn’t it? As an HR manager in the Cyber domain, I can say that unfortunately, this is a stereotype entertained by many people outside the industry. Many of them never had an inkling of exposure to the field, except for stock photos of a hooded hacker working in the dark – and he’s always a guy, isn’t he? Moreover, many women are deterred by this image, and don’t even consider exploring the possibility of a Cyber career.
Cyber and Prejudice
Prejudices form a vicious cycle that reinforces itself. Early on, many women are softly steered toward artsy or people-oriented professions that often involve a medium-level or complementary income. “Most of my female friends work in psychology, education or human resources,” says one of our female analysts. Men, on the other hand, are firmly directed toward STEM oriented careers that can support a family. Both genders internalize these stereotypes and embody them in their careers. Of course, this is changing, but the fact is, men still largely dominate the Cyber industry: Women occupy only 20% of Cyber jobs, with a slow 11% increase since 2013. Too little, too slow.
This state of things makes the Cyber glass ceiling even harder to bypass. When some bold individual finally gets up the guts to try to climb over it, she often earns the dubious experience of being one of the two women in the CERT, the programming class or the Cyber convention, attracting critical stares. In such an environment, women are required to present a higher standard of excellence, put in a greater effort or be more aggressive to achieve recognition.
Even some well-meaning people who do not see themselves as prejudiced, do, in fact, have an unconscious bias, and often unintentionally hire and promote people who resemble them.
The Reality Behind the Image
Insiders and people who are familiar with the industry know full well that the reality of Cyber employment is miles away from the stereotype. At CyberHat, for instance, there are plenty of Cyber positions that offer flexible hours and a vital working environment, while placing the emphasis on performance and getting the job done. Cyber can be a pretty good career choice for a work-life balance.
Why Cyber Should Target Women Candidates
According to various estimates, 3.5 million cyber jobs will be opened by 2021. The need for capable professionals in the field is so great that expanding the sources of employment is a Must, and the most immediate and obvious source is female candidates.
Besides the dire need, I believe Cyber businesses have a lot to gain by hiring women. Diversity has been proven to boost creativity and innovation in the organization, bringing more perspectives and experiences into the discussion. In the Cyber industry this is especially critical, as the threats are created by diverse people, so diverse thinking and backgrounds are necessary for targeting them. You won’t crack too many schemes if you’re fixed on a single mindset.
Moreover, we at CyberHat have found that women perform exceptionally well in Cyber jobs. “Women analysts tend to be more focused, perform better, follow procedures meticulously and scrutinize every detail. When a female analyst is present, the entire team makes better progress, and in my experience, women also excel in client interactions”. We believe that creating a balanced diversity between male and female employees is one of the top goals of our SOC structure.
Saying Yes to Change
So what now? It’s time for action. First, companies need to say Yes to change (we did already). They need to acknowledge that there is a problem, be focused on solving it, and define it as a specific corporate goal, with an executive advocate. Once this is done, the door is open. Recruiters in Cyber companies must be briefed on new targets, and their awareness must be heightened to the goal of increasing the number of women professionals in the company. Recruiters must aspire to have at least one female candidate for each job opening. To achieve this, they need to widen their recruitment sources by working with various organizations and establishments – HR agencies, organizations of women in technology, schools and more. The company can even offer rewards for recruiting female candidates.
Actually, CyberHat actively seeks more female candidates and is willing to put a lot of effort into making them feel at home.
Women also need to rethink their approach to the world of Cyber and explore its advantages as an exciting profession that can offer wonderful opportunities for growth and for taking part in cutting edge technology developments. “Now that my friends have heard about my career experience, one of them is changing her study major to computer science,” says one of our female analysts.
Let’s make Cyber awareness mean more than protecting our information. Let’s widen the exposure to the benefits of a Cyber career to all genders – for the benefit of all.
Learn more about a career at CyberHat
By Adi Gez – HR Manager, CyberHat