Why Addressing the Wage Gap Is the First Step to Solving the Cybersecurity Skills Shortage

The tech industry still faces a considerable talent shortage, particularly in the cybersecurity space. The first step in eliminating this shortage is to address the fact that, even today, women are paid less than men. Here's why.

The cybersecurity space still faces a looming talent shortage. Earlier this year, specialist recruitment agency Stott and May reported that 76 percent of security leaders currently struggle with a shortage of necessary skills within their organization. This is a problem that will get worse before it gets better.

Especially in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, cybersecurity is more important than ever. We are living in an increasingly digital world, one defined by online shopping and a distributed workforce. As we move into 2021, a well-staffed security team will be more important than ever.

Yet somehow, this is still something that seems to elude many organizations.

Part of the reason, ironically enough, is that the security space is still relatively hostile towards women, both in post-secondary and in the larger industry. 

According to a recently-published study by the International Information Security Certification Consortium (ISC)2, women now make up nearly a third of the global cybersecurity workforce. At the same time, discrimination is still an extremely prevalent issue. Not only are women in North America and Europe paid approximately 21 percent less than men, but 22 percent also cited discrimination as an issue they’d experienced in their careers.

It’s not as though women are somehow less capable in the tech industry than men. Quite the contrary, in fact. As reported by The New York Times, the first computer programmers were women. Historically, this means that there is no clear difference in technical skills between men and women.

And there is certainly no justification for a pay gap. Bridging this gap and bringing more women into the cybersecurity space will go a long way towards addressing the talent shortage. And the first step in that, according to Edward Bishop, CTO and Co-Founder of cybersecurity company Tessian, is for cybersecurity to work on its image. 

“After surveying 200 female cybersecurity professionals in the U.S. and the UK, our company’s report found that…cybersecurity professionals in the media consist almost exclusively of young white men, in basements, wearing hoodies,” writes Bishop, writing for Forbes. “More accurate media representation was ranked the [number one] way to encourage more women to pursue cybersecurity roles.” 

Granted, media representation is something the industry as a whole must work collaboratively towards. It’s not something any single organization can address. That said, there are several steps your business can take, as noted by publication Security Intelligence.

  • Take a close look at how your job listings may be stymying representation. Widen your search to include areas you might not ordinarily look, and think about how your job postings may be geared towards a particular demographic. 
  • Promote an internal culture that promotes based on skill rather than identity. This is something that requires an active commitment. You cannot simply push out a few newsletters about the importance of workplace diversity. You must constantly work towards it from the top-down,
  • Bring more women into leadership roles. If your entire C-suite and board of directors consists of men, you have a problem. 

The solution for the cybersecurity skills shortage may be simpler than one might expect. By addressing the wage gap and bringing more women into the technology industry, we can significantly increase the hiring pool. It may not completely address the problem, but it will be an enormous step in the right direction.