Women Less Likely Than Men to Choose an IT Security Career

More than half of women globally, compared to 39 percent of young men, said they felt no cyber security programs or activities were available to them.

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The gap between young American men and women who would consider a career devoted to Internet security is five times greater than what it was a year ago, according to a global survey of nearly 4,000 young adults, which was commissioned by Raytheon and the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA).

Only 60 percent of survey respondents say a computer was introduced to their classrooms by age nine, and women appear to be particularly disadvantaged when it comes to networking opportunities--men were twice as likely as women to have spoken with a cyber security professional, according to the study.

"Perception of skill and qualification begins at a young age, and women are disadvantaged by both lack of opportunities and encouragement when it comes to cyber security educational programs and careers," Valecia Maclin, program director for Raytheon’s cyber security business, told eWEEK. "This negatively impacts their confidence in this field and their willingness to pursue this career path."

In the U.S., 67 percent of men and 77 percent of women said no high school or secondary school teacher, guidance or career counselor ever mentioned the idea of a cyber security career.

On a global scale, nearly half (47 percent) of men say they are aware of the typical range of responsibilities and job tasks involved in the cyber profession, compared to only a third of women surveyed.

Globally, 62 percent of men and 75 percent of women said no secondary or high school computer classes offered the skills to help them pursue a career in cyber security.

In addition, more than half (52 percent) of women globally, compared to 39 percent of young men, said they felt no cyber security programs or activities were available to them.

"My father instilled in me the same confidence that he carried throughout his career as a mechanical engineer," Maclin said. "He brought me to work to see declassified blueprints for components of a military system when I was 12 years old and inspired my interest in engineering and protecting our national security, which has led me to a career in cyber security."

She explained that it’s absolutely critical to challenge the common perception among young women of being unqualified and encourage women to excel in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education from elementary school to college to meet the only increasing demand for cyber warriors.

Maclin also noted it was surprising that given the high profile breaches this past year and increased attention on cyber security from the White House to the corporate C-Suite, only a third of young adults said they had read or heard a news account of cyber-attacks in the last year.