Women in IT Security: Making headway

It’s no secret that women are greatly outnumbered by their male counterparts in the field, and that other gaps, such as those in pay, remain a hurdle for women aiming to reach new heights in their careers. But Larry Ponemon, chairman and founder of research think tank the Ponemon Institute, believes that women, who’ve risen to senior-level positions in IT security, are increasingly finding themselves in the company of other female leaders.

Through a nine-year tracking study of IT security practitioners, the institute found that the number of women in these roles nearly doubled from 2005 to 2013.

Though a small sample (ranging from nearly 1,000 to just over 1,500 people over the years), the findings show that the percentage of women in management security positions grew from 8 percent to almost 16 percent over the stretch of time. In the study, leadership positions are defined as vice president, senior vice president, and comparable management roles, Ponemon explains.

“The rate of increase of women in executive positions has nearly doubled,” Ponemon says. “The rate of change is very good for women, and increasing at a faster rate in supervisory levels than their male counterparts.”

The study polled practitioners where, at minimum, 20 percent of their job function was dedicated to IT security.

Ponemon also reveals another hopeful indicator for women managing to break through the glass ceiling: lengthier job occupancy rates for those reaching security leadership ranks.

“For people that are at, or above, the director level, the average tenure was 2.5 years for both men and women. But for women alone, it was 3.6 years. Women that are, in fact, in senior level positions were able to stay in that position longer than men,” Ponemon points out.

Though plenty of work remains to be done in closing the industry’s gender gap, this inaugural issue of SC Magazine takes the step of highlighting women for their noteworthy contributions to the IT security and privacy space. In addition, our lineup of features will examine ongoing efforts to support women entering, or already working within the field. As well, workplace issues presenting barriers to women aiming to make strides, from sexual harassment to unequal pay, are on the table in this special issue.


Blog English, Career Advice, Cyber Security