Bridging the Gap for Women in Cybersecurity

The 61st session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) wrapped up on March 24, ending an intensive two weeks of discussion on its 2017 priority theme—Women’s Economic Empowerment in the Changing World of Work.

The outcome was a 19-page paper of sweeping recommendations that the UN’s top-ranking gender official said all global stakeholders must act on to help guarantee that “work works for women.”

Currently, session attendees concluded, work does not.

Worldwide, only 50 percent of working-age women are in the labor force, compared to 76 percent of men.  And women are concentrated in lower-paid work, perform most informal-economy labor, and are underrepresented in decision-making roles and STEM fields, UN-Women.org data show. View the infographic to explore some of the challenges and opportunities women face in the changing world of work.

In the STEM world, Loyce Pailen is a rarity. The UMUC collegiate professor of cybersecurity technology has built a solid career spanning more than 30 years in the male-dominated cybersecurity field. And though some of the work-related obstacles she faced early on have gone the way of the dinosaur, evidence of the STEM gap still abounds, she said.

In the United States, women who specialize in cybersecurity make up only 2.7 percent of the total U.S. information technology workforce, indicate data from Women’s Society of Cyberjutsu (WSC).  Anecdotally, Pailen, who attended the February 2017 RSA Conference at San Francisco—billed by Business Wire as the world’s leading security event with more than 43,000 attendees—noted both the scarcity of women on the speakers’ roster and absence of waiting lines at the women’s restroom as further proof of the glaring gender imbalance.

Among other topics, Pailen recently spoke with UMUC CyberConnections blog staff about the projected global information security workforce shortage—expected to approach 2 million by 2022—and using the ‘CSI effect’ to attract more women to cybersecurity and other STEM fields.

Whether working to ensure that “work works for women” across all sectors globally or by industry locally, the CSW and Pailen suggest that enhanced education, training and skills development should top the list of action items.

Read the full text of Pailen’s thoughts on Bridging the Gap for Women in Cybersecurity.