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December 16, 2023 - 5 minutes

Women in Cybersecurity: Empowering Leaders in a Male-Dominated Field

Championing women in tech has never been more important.

Juliette Carreiro - Tech Writer


It’s true that tech is becoming an increasingly diverse field, with previous barriers to entry falling slowly as the sector welcomes more and more different groups of people. But as with anything, this process is quite slow and requires dedication and effort from those both already in the field and those looking to get their foot in the door. 

This is especially relevant for the gender gap in tech, where it’s known as a male-dominated field. And this stereotype is understood when we take the following into consideration: 

  • In 2020, women made up just 16% of bachelor degree recipients in computer and information services, 21% in engineering, 27% in economics, and 38% in physical sciences. 

  • Women hold less than 20% of tech leadership roles.

  • Only 19% of senior vice presidents and 15% of CEOs are women.

  • 39% of women in tech see gender bias as a hindrance to getting a promotion.

  • 34% of Apple’s employees are female but only 24% of their technical roles are held by women. 

  • During the COVID-19 pandemic, women were nearly twice as likely to either leave their jobs, be furloughed, or be fired. 

As you can see, there are quite a few discrepancies between different genders when it comes to both tech roles and advancing in the field; as one of the newest fields in tech, cybersecurity is one of the fields that has the most room for improvement, as the newest techies tend to be both more open-minded and diverse.

But one thing is still true: the gender gap in cybersecurity stems from systemic issues that plagued our society and that won’t change overnight. So before we dive right into how to empower female leaders in this male-dominated field, let’s discuss the original stem of the problem.

Where Does the Gender Gap in Tech Come From? 

Just like with any issue that’s persisted for a while, the root of the problem can be found if we look far back into our society and connect it with what’s going on today. For a while, women were expected to stay at home and care for the family while their husband worked–and some weren’t even permitted to get an education. This led to a skills gap where even if a woman could work, she didn’t have the necessary skills to land a job. 

Well, the world is moving towards more equal standing between men and women, right? So how does this continue as a problem today? The very definition of systemic inequality is that it’s ingrained in the system and tough to change; these are some of the factors that make it hard to break out of this cycle of inequality: 

  • Women tend to work in sectors that pay less than male-dominated industries.

  • Leadership roles tend to be held by men.

  • Men get promoted more often.

  • In every single country worldwide, women make less than men for the same work.

  • Women face incredible pressure when getting pregnant or choosing to stay at home with their children.

  • Women take on a lot of unpaid roles, such as childcare or caring for a sick relative.

Why is having women in tech such a necessity?

Apart from the obvious benefits of reaching equality and providing everyone with an equal opportunity, women are incredibly beneficial to the tech sector because: 

  • Women in tech improve overall company performance: companies with 30% female leadership were associated with a 6% net profit margin; these companies with female leadership are less likely to discriminate against woman and are more likely to create supportive environments for women meaning: 

    • Female employees will perform better as they feel appreciated and valued 

    • Female leadership won’t discriminate against skilled female candidates, expanding the overall candidate pool for the company.

  • Women in tech are ready to fill the market gap: there’s a worldwide shortage of skilled tech professionals to meet the needs of companies and as more and more women feel welcome in the tech industry, this gap will shrink.

  • Women in tech help design for women: the best products and services are designed with the user in mind; if a company is designing a product to be used by just women or even anyone, the people at the table need to understand the needs and wants of women to design something that will be truly effective. 

How to Empower Women in Tech

Now that we’ve covered the importance of empowering women in tech, let’s get into the good stuff: how to empower women to both feel comfortable and valued within tech and encourage women to join the industry. 

There are countless steps to take to make sure the women in your company feel seen, but starting with our tips is a great place from which to start. 

Create female-centered networks 

It can be intimidating to be in a male-dominated office or team and providing support to your female colleagues can give them a safe place to be heard and raise any problems. Connect incoming employees with more experienced female colleagues to help them create a mentorship relationship, which will help them succeed.

Prioritize work/life balances

As we mentioned above, women are frequently tasked with the majority of household/familial duties and in many cases, they have lots of responsibilities once they leave the office. Make sure your company offers flexibility for employees, such as letting them work remotely or the hours that work best for them–you’ll see their gratitude in their performance! 

Address any problems when they arise 

Sexism in the workplace is a real concern and one of the most important parts of creating a safe environment for women is identifying and tackling any problems that arise–right when they do. Hold your employees accountable for their actions and consider adding mandatory training about diversity and inclusion so that you’re taking actionable steps to create an inclusive environment. 

Make sure that your words are backed up by your actions and that your female employees feel comfortable addressing any problem that may arise. 

Lead by example 

There’s no better way to show your employees how seriously you take gender discrimination and sexism than by leading by example; give women fair opportunities, promoting them when deserved, and letting them take the lead on projects. This also applies to when problems arise; be firm in your approach and let your employees know that there is zero tolerance for any sort of gender discrimination. 

The road to gender equality in the tech industry seems like it may be far off, but every day we’re moving closer and closer to a world in which women have the same opportunities as men. But to get there, it’s on us and we’ll have to be focused on doing what we can to help this become a reality. 

At Ironhack, our flexible and affordable cybersecurity bootcamps allow entirely new groups of people to receive the education they need to get into tech, welcoming female techies to our incredible industry. If you’re interested in seeing where tech can take you, there’s no better place to start. 

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