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While it may seem like an antiquated fight, women are still struggling to obtain the same professional status as men. Whether it is a crusade for equal representation in a certain industry or the seemingly never-ending battle for equal pay across genders, women have been fighting an uphill battle for years. This becomes even more frustrating when you consider data points to female leaders being more effective than their male counterparts in 12 out of 16 core leadership competencies. According to an extensive study by Zenger Folkman, the data supporting superior management skills in women is considerable, reported The Business Insider.
There are few industries where this lack of female representation is more baffling than the cybersecurity sector. Especially when you take into account that women professionals are more qualified than men in several areas where the field is seriously lacking – such as transparency, collaboration, integrity and innovation. CIO contributor Kristen Corpolongo reported that while women do make up almost 47 percent of the U.S. labor force, they only constitute 19 percent of currently employed technologists.
“Female professionals possess the skills, they just need the opportunities.”
Filling in the gaps with female leadership
Cyber threats have been a source of considerable attention over the past year, and as such, corporations and consumers alike are looking for innovative advancements in security and technology. Corpolongo asserted that in order to reach these breakthroughs, the cybersecurity sector will need to implement transformative changes across organizations, leadership and overall tech culture.
Incorporating more women in the workforce can be a solution to many of the current problems. However, the change requires more than just boosting the number of female workers. There needs to be more mature and revolutionary management changes stemming from women. Female professionals possess the skills, they just need the opportunities.
The Zenger Folkman study found that women have considerable success in industries where males have typically dominated leadership roles. This can largely be credited to drawing in a fresh perspective on old problems. When a particular business is predominantly led by like-minded leaders, the end result is usually a lack of innovation. Women can provide the fresh perspective cyber security organizations need to handle problems that have long gone unsolved.
A new approach to cybersecurity strategies
Corpolongo argued that the answer to the current problems in information security lies in prioritizing four key leadership skills: transparency, trust, high reliability and individual integrity. Coincidentally, the Zenger Folkman study found that women were more effective than their male counterparts in all four of these areas.
The most fundamental of these skills involves transparency. In order to create a high level of trust within an organization honesty is crucial. This commitment to transparency is paramount in the cybersecurity sector because honest leadership breeds a loyal organization. The importance of integrity in leadership is only compounded when you consider that ill-intentioned employees can be a major threat to cybersecurity, reported Corpolongo. Some of the greatest threats to security come from within an organization, so a more human-centered security strategy can greatly prevent current risks.
“Some of the greatest threats to security come from within an organization.”
The cybersecurity field could benefit greatly from simply including more women workers in both leadership and floor-level positions. Their inherent transformative leaderships could provide the industry with the innovative changes needed at this critical time. Accountable collaboration among employees on every level is critical to building a high-reliability organization and more female leadership could help build up this new approach to organizational structures within cybersecurity companies. Cybersecurity needs to make some fundamental evolutionary changes and it all starts with beginning to include more women in the workforce. The move away from total male-domination and a push toward diversity in hiring decisions can help move organizations toward a more mature and dynamic structure.
For female professionals looking for resources surrounding women in cybersecurity, the National Cybersecurity Institute’s Initiative for Women in Cybersecurity provides great materials for skill training. The initiative is backed by some truly inspirational women who are helping to pioneer the path for more female inclusion in the cybersecurity sector. Check out the variety of resources and inspiration we have to offer today.
Jane is currently a Senior Advisor for the National Cybersecurity Institute at Excelsior College in Washington, DC. Previously, she served as dean of the school of Business and Technology at Excelsior College in Albany, NY. She is a vocal advocate for attracting and retaining more women in the technology fields and established the Dr. Jane A. LeClair Scholarship Fund for Women in Technology at Excelsior College in 2012.