There is a global shortage of cybersecurity professionals, while the volume and sophistication of cybercrimes are growing at an alarming rate. For both of these reasons, governments and the industry are working to raise the profile of the cybersecurity sector and to encourage people, especially young people to see it as an attractive career.
Getting girls interested in cybersecurity will be key to making this happen.
Some professions (such as entertainment) have so many people fighting for each post, they can afford to be ruthless. Other professions are ticking over comfortably; they are popular enough that they don’t need to worry about attracting new entrants, but not so popular that they are overrun with applications every time there is a position available.
Some professions, however, are desperately short of applicants to the point where it already hurting them and could really cause them difficulties if the issue is left unaddressed. IT is one of those professions and the issue is particularly acute in cybersecurity.
Because of this, they can no longer afford to ignore the extent to which the industry is male-dominated and simply wait for nature to take its course and for girls to “get interested”. They actively need to reach out to them and get them interested and start not only filling the skills shortage which exists in the present but also creating the role models who will inspire future generations. After all, “you can’t be what you can’t see”.
The march of technology has brought all kinds of benefits, but it has also raised all kinds of challenges. Most of these challenges revolve around the need to ensure that the benefits are enjoyed by as many people as possible and that any negative consequences are minimised if not eliminated. More specifically, there is a particular need to ensure that no demographic group is excessively impacted by limitations in technology.
One example of this is the increasing use of artificial intelligence to facilitate the automation of common administrative tasks. Perhaps the most obvious sign of this is the fact that just about every business website now has a chatbot available to customers.
Many of these chatbots have female avatars and female names, as do the “virtual assistants” Alexa, Siri and Cortana. There is a reason for this: administrative roles have traditionally been a female-dominated profession, so it’s entirely understandable that the creators of these technology tools (who were probably men, or at least mostly men) would have given them female images. It’s also entirely foreseeable that any reduction in administrative positions (due to advances in technology) would directly impact women more than men (although they would also very likely have an indirect impact on men).
Getting more women involved in IT in general and cybersecurity, in particular, can help to address these issues by making sure that women’s voices are heard at every turn.
Other marginalised groups should be better represented, too. After many people of colour found that artificial intelligence devices or other tech devices, such as automatic hand dryers, simply do not recognise darker skin, it became clear that these under-represented communities needed to have better input into the profession.