A recent surge of programs and initiatives to nurture women and girl’s interests and careers in cybersecurity and technology bodes well for an industry that desperately needs to close a persistent gender gap.
Finally, some good news for growing gender gap in cybersecurity and technology: several new initiatives recently have launched to bring cybersecurity and IT education and career development to young girls and women.
The Girl Scouts are going cyber. The Center for Cyber Safety and Education – a division of (ISC)2, recently partnered with the Girl Scouts of West Central Florida at GS Fest 2016 to launch the first Girl Scout Cyber Safety Patch as part of the Center’s Safe and Secure Online program. The purpose of the program is to educate girls about safe cybersecurity practices as well as foster an interest in cybersecurity and technology careers.
Kids continue to engage on the Internet at younger and younger ages, says Pat Craven, director for the Center for Cyber Safety and Education. And while the age for opening a Facebook account is 13, the Center’s research shows that that kids are opening accounts at younger ages.
The new Girl Scout patch, which was completed by 200 girls and 100 troop leaders last week, features “spokescat” Garfield and friends by creator Jim Davis, as well as a new character, Dr. Cybina, a female cat who is also a CISSP. Creating a female cat character that is a CISSP to deliver security lessons in this cyber safety series (that uses an interactive cartoon, comic books, and stickers) was a strategic move.
The goal is to portray a woman in a cybersecurity profession and give the girls something to aspire to, says Craven. “It’s not going to change the gap in the next year or two, but we hope in the long run it’ll encourage more girls to enter the [cybersecurity] field,” he says.
And the Center wasn’t the only tech group at GS Fest 2016, signaling the growing interest to bring technology education and career awareness to young girls. “Even Microsoft had a booth there to promote getting into coding.”
“STEM education is really important to Girl Scouts because we understand and know that girls are underrepresented in the STEM field, including cybersecurity,” says Jessica Muroff, CEO of the Girl Scouts of West Central Florida. “Not only are [girls] interested in [STEM topics], but it’s such a big field with so many options — educating them about it is really important to us. This program and this patch is exposing them to the career and business behind it.”
Giving a New Face to Cybersecurity and IT
“We can do IT” is the new Rosie the Riveter slogan for CompTIA’s Rebranding Rosie the Riveter campaign that addresses the gender gap in IT and security roles today. The landing page, which uses the tagline “Make Tech Her Story,” allows visitors to create a Rosie in their image and share it to social media to both encourage women and diversity in technology.
The campaign was born out of a recent study CompTIA conducted that found that girls’ interest in technology careers dwindles as they get older. Twenty-seven percent of middle school-aged girls surveyed (10–13 years-old) have considered an IT career, but in high school-aged girls (14–17 years-old), the number drops to just 18%.
The campaign and study is also a response to the fact that the technology community is not very gender-diverse, says Steven Ostrowski, director of corporate communications for CompTIA.
“The ratio of men to women in technology is about 75% to 25% and that’s been fairly consistent for a number of years,” he says. “We tried to get beyond the fact, that yes, we’d like to get more gender-diverse and figure out what is it that’s keeping young girls from considering a tech option.”
One reason for this could be that as girls get older and begin to think about careers, the number of women that they see represented in technology is very small.
“A big shortcoming on our part as an industry is a lack of role models,” Ostrowski says. “Just 37% of girls know someone with an IT job. Besides a parent, there needs to be someone to look up to, offer advice.”
The Dream IT program by CompTIA’s Advancing Women in Technology Community is one program that is helping bring positive female role models in technology to girls and women interested in IT, according to Ostrowski.
The program offers videos, turnkey presentations, and other resources for volunteers who are interested in sharing information with students and other women on careers in technology. It also provides a way for visitors to the site to request speakers for schools and groups, and a career resource center that offers women information on technology jobs and salaries, technology groups in their area, and real-life accounts of women working in IT.
“Hopefully through [the Rebranding Rosie the Riveter campaign] and other things we’re doing, we can make some dent and turn that 25% figure upward and get a better balance in our workforce,” says Ostrowski.
Career Development for Women
Despite the fact that women now hold higher advanced degrees in security than men do, women are still not equally represented in security and technology roles. In order to combat this issue, the Information Systems Audit and Control Association (ISACA) launched a new program called Connecting Women Leaders in Technology. According to their website, the program was developed
Emily Johnson is an Associate Editor on UBM America’s Content Marketing team. Prior to this role, Emily spent four and a half years in content and marketing roles supporting the UBM America’s IT events portfolio. Emily earned her B.A. in English from the University of … View Full Bio