Statistics and research support what we have all known for some time – that (1) there is a shortage of qualified people in cybersecurity and (2) there is also a decided lack of women in STEM and related technology fields, to include Cybersecurity.. Despite the alluring salaries which average between $80-100K, people in the educational pipeline are not particularly enthused about entering the technology field. The lack of women is especially troubling with a low percentage in the educational pipeline and a higher than normal dropout rate once employed in technology. Efforts to equalize pay, create mentoring relationships, negate stereotypes and positively encourage females in their formative years have been made to try and turn this trend around, but the success rate is questionable and still being researched.
Many agree, however, that one of the best ways to bring women into cybersecurity and other technology fields is through role modeling. By highlighting successful women already out there in the workforce and raising them to the status of role models for young women, we are demonstrating what can be done! There are certainly enough successful women to look up to – Marissa Mayer and Erin Teague at Yahoo, Isabelle Olsson at Google, Sheryl Sandberg at Facebook, Carol Bartz formerly of Yahoo, Poornima Vijayashanker at Femgineer, Hanna Wallach at Microsoft, Cassidy Williams at Venmo and Arielle Zuckerberg at Humin come easily to mind. Each in their own right has made a name for themselves in the technology field.
Role Modeling requires more than success in your endeavor however. Price-Mitchell (2013) suggests that good role models have five unique qualities:
- A passion and ability to inspire.
- A clear set of values.
- A commitment to community.
- A selflessness and acceptance of others.
- An ability to overcome obstacles.
By finding women who exhibit those qualities and are willing to come forward and stand as beacons to inspire other women, we can light the pathway for those who have made up their minds to enter the STEM/cyber workforce and forge their own careers in this very rewarding and challenging field. We have created role models in sports, politics, the military, business and the arts, and now it’s time to do the same in Cybersecurity and STEM.
Price-Mitchell, M. (2013). What is a Role Model? Five Qualities that Matter to Teens