It wasn’t too long ago that the idea that women should have a say in politics – let alone lead the Democratic Party in the country’s presidential campaign – finally began to be taken seriously. And while we have made significant strides in the fight for equal pay and opportunity, there is still quite a bit of work to be done. This is especially clear when examining the obvious discrepancies still prevalent in certain industries.
While it’s possible that we may soon have a woman leading our country, there are still an alarming amount of tech organizations lacking female leaders within their organizational structures. A survey conducted by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recently found that only 18 percent of leadership roles among top tech companies in America are held by women and, within certain occupations, men earn nearly 30 percent more than female counterparts, Tech Crunch reported.
The source added that the percentage of funding investors dedicate to ventures headed by women is in the single digits, and even more alarming is that not even 1 percent of the venture deals given between 2012 and 2014 were for businesses with Black female founders. And, although women represent more than half of the labor force in the United States, they barely make up a quarter of STEM and tech jobs and, even when they do, they only earn, on average, about 80 percent of what men in the same positions do.
Women are both underrepresented and underpaid in the tech field.
Gender bias is bad for business
This discrepancy should be addressed not only on a moral basis, but also because neglecting women is not a good business strategy. TechCrunch pointed out that a handful of research studies have revealed that the tech firms that are managed by females often realize greater benefits and performance. For example, in addition to being more capital-efficient, organizations led by women earn an average of 35 percent higher ROI. Other findings have showed that because women entrepreneurs have to fight more aggressively to make their businesses succeed – due to getting only half the amount of venture-capital funding as men – woman-run tech companies tend to earn more revenue as well.
“Tech companies led by women have been shown to outperform those managed by a team of men.”
Considering the widespread IT talent shortage that has concerned many businesses across virtually all industries, on top of the accumulating cybersecurity risks threatening organizations at every level, there is an obvious need – and advantage – to establish a more diversified and gender-balanced workforce. But it is a two-pronged problem: In addition to attracting more females to the field of tech, we must also implement better solutions for keeping them there.
More than half of women in tech or STEM occupations end up leaving after a while and, according to Network World, part of this can be attributed to feelings of being excluded, overlooked and marginalized. The source highlighted research findings from MIT, the University of California and others, which showed that, despite accounting for 20 percent of engineering degrees, females hold only 13 percent of jobs in the same field. This disconnect can be explained by the social dynamics of the business environment that, in general, tend to favor men and harbor stereotypical frameworks.
Certainly there is a correlation between the women who received VC funding and support from investors and the success they have seen at work. It is critically important, then, that businesses take significant measures to ensure that the females at their organizations feel encouraged. This includes ensuring that the corporate culture is comfortable for both males and females, as well as addressing any workplace social dynamics or biases that may be impacting the satisfaction of woman employees.
Enhancing workforce equality starts at the education level.
Creating a stronger support system
As far as resolving the issue of the severe, unbalanced ratio of men to women in the technology field, it is highly recommended that we start with the education. At the college and high school level, this may involve educators being more proactive in communicating to students the opportunities available to them through pursuing careers in cybersecurity and IT. It could also mean businesses expanding their outreach to schools and taking a more integrative, engaging and hands-on approach to recruitment.
Furthermore, promoting women to leadership positions, as well as providing them with the training and education opportunities for earning IT certifications, can enhance not only the information security of an organization, but its overall performance and success too. At The National Cybersecurity Institute, we offer a wide range of cybersecurity courses and programs, such as the (ISC)2 Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP®), that help fuel such initiatives.
Some people are taking their efforts to broaden the tech landscape for women beyond even the high school level. For example, Tech Alabama recently reported that a woman engineering professor at the University of Alabama Huntsville, Rhonda Gaede, Ph.D., created a STEM camp to target eighth-grade females. The purpose of this program is to help young girls understand the field and positively influence their mentality so they are confident about joining this workforce.
Take a look at NCI’s Initiative for Women in Cybersecurity where you can hear from other women in the field. Learn more about the training programs offered by the National Cybersecurity Institute by visiting our training page.