A shocking number of young women would not even consider cyber security or IT as a career path, with the majority tending to make this decision before they are 16.
According to a new report by Kaspersky Lab, a staggering 78% of women across Europe and the US would not choose a career in IT. It comes as no surprise, therefore, that just a mere 11% of workers in cyber security are females.
The report found that out of the 4,000 respondents men were more likely than women to choose maths, with 49% in comparison to 36%. Furthermore, men were three times more likely to choose a career in IT when compared to women.
Kaspersky’s report suggests that the lack of women wanting to work in the industry comes as a result of a lack of awareness around the subject. In total, 45% of women said they were not aware of the careers in cyber security and IT, with 16% stating that they didn’t understand what cyber security does.
The report also found that many young females would rather take up a career that ‘changes the world’ or is more intimate, such as nursing, compared to what they think the IT world would be like with coding. Of those questioned, a third of young women associated young people in IT as ‘geeks’ and a quarter referring to them as ‘nerds’.
This demonstrates a clear stigma against the industry from a female perspective and the report suggests that schools and parents have a predominant role in this early on in young people’s careers -it is those individuals that could change the future industry.
Janice Richardson, Senior Advisor, European Schoolnet said: “Schools have a big role to play and cyber security will only become attractive as a career path when young people are able to grasp the full sense and exciting challenges it offers. Better information about cyber security careers could positively impact more young people choosing this path.”
With a lack of awareness comes a lack of skills being developed, which has already been found among the industry and seemingly keeps widening. Kaspersky predicts that by 2022 the skills gap will hit 1.8m, with a distinct lack of female representation.
Neil Owen, Director, Robert Half Technology UK said: “Organizations can’t afford to underestimate their exposure to cyber-attacks and should be championing the importance of cyber-security while also investing in training to up-skill their cyber-security specialists. Retaining professionals with these multidisciplinary skills should be high on the business agenda.”
The report found that working in tech, cyber-security and STEM environments is daunting for most young girls because they feel they don’t have the correct skills, such as ‘coding’. In order to close the skills gap, firms must make the younger generation more aware of what opportunities are available.
Stuart Madnick, Professor of Information Technology and Engineering Systems, MIT Sloan School of Management, said: “Many individuals have the mistaken belief that cyber security is strictly a technical job requiring strong coding skills. Although that is true for some jobs having ‘soft skills’ can be as, and sometimes even more important as technical skills in making a difference in the organisation.”
Alongside other organisations, Kaspersky outlined its aim to improve knowledge and understanding of the changes contributing to the skills shortage. These include lack of awareness, lack of skills knowledge and lack of role models for young people.