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Report: Most Women Decide Early Against a Cybersecurity Career

By the age of 16, most women in the United States, Europe and Israel have already decided not to pursue a career in cybersecurity, according to a new study from Kaspersky Lab. The researchers attribute that disinterest in part to a negative image of the security industry as a whole, citing respondents' perception that cybersecurity roles are for "hackers," "geeks" and "nerds."

"Based on our research, at the moment, young women do not perceive cybersecurity to be a viable or attractive career option for them, and they are therefore ruling out a career in the IT industry at a young age, making it hard to persuade them otherwise," said Todd Helmbrecht, senior vice president of marketing, Kaspersky Lab North America, in a statement. "Early education plays a critical role in overcoming entry barriers, but there's also a need to change the industry's image as a whole and promote the careers within. An important part of that process is making the roles more visible and enticing, and debunking the stereotype of IT security geeks sitting in a dark room hacking computers."

Seventy-eight percent of females ages 16-21 have never considered a career in cybersecurity, the study found. Two in three young women say they want to pursue a career they are passionate about instead. One-third think that cybersecurity professionals are "geeks," and one-quarter think they're "nerds."

In addition, 42 percent of all respondents said it is important to have a gender role model in their careers, the report said. Half of women prefer to work in an environment with equal numbers of male and female employees.

"As shown in the Kaspersky Lab report, young women are often not aware, do not feel prepared and do not see relatable role models that motivate them to consider cybersecurity roles. In particular, many individuals have the mistaken belief that cybersecurity is strictly a technical job requiring strong coding skills," said Stuart Madnick, professor of information technologies and founder of the MIT Interdisciplinary Consortium for Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity, in a statement. "Although that is true for some jobs, cybersecurity threats often come from deficiencies in an organization's culture and procedures — having 'soft skills' can be as, and sometimes even more, important as technical skills in making a difference in an organization."

Conducted by Arlington Research, the study surveyed 4,001 young men and women (ages 16-21) from the U.S., United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Israel and the Netherlands about their interests and perception of cybersecurity as a profession. All respondents were either attending, have attended or wish to attend a college or university. The full report, Beyond 11 Percent: A Study into Why Women Are not Entering Cybersecurity," is available here.

About the Author

Rhea Kelly is editor in chief for Campus Technology, THE Journal, and Spaces4Learning. She can be reached at [email protected].

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