Debate: IT Security's male image and lack of female role models are the main reasons for the scarcity of women in the industry

News by Phyllis Kolmus and Ryan Corey

Phyllis Kolmus and Ryan Corey discuss the lack of female role models and its affects in the IT security industry.

Pro: Phyllis Kolmus, immediate past president, Women in Technology,

The lack of women in IT security stems from women's vast underrepresentation in computer-related careers. The number of women in computing peaked in the 1980s at 38 percent and has declined to its current 20 percent.   

The decline correlates to 1980s mass marketing of PCs as toys/games to boys. The movie WarGames famously portrays a boy hacker saving the world while his girlfriend watches adoringly. 

College Board reports 50 percent more boys than girls leave high school with computer experience and of those reporting no computer courses, two-thirds were girls. With declining interest and exposure, girls enter college and the workforce lacking confidence that they possess the skills and personality necessary for successful IT security careers. 

The solution lies in multi-pronged approaches that provide girls with hands-on experiences, provide women and men in successful careers in IT/IT security as mentors/role models, and give girls confidence from computer-related coursework.

    Ryan Corey, cofounder, Cybrary,

The main reason there are not more women in IT security is due to the lack of learning resources. This lack of resources has created a barrier to the opportunity to learn. Practical IT security is not offered in schools. Available training has been too expensive, as individual classes have traditionally cost between £1,609 to £3,219. That price point also has made training impractical. You pay a premium for a class and then the technologies become obsolete almost immediately. Also, classes for advanced topics aren't readily available. 

Further, given that the industry started out as male-dominated, women are often automatically excluded from participating in other sources of learning, such as forums and online communities. 

So again, the lack of accessible learning resources has been the primary factor for why there is a lack of women in IT security up until now.

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