Cybersecurity, an area that is struggling to open up to women

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Cybersecurity, an area that is struggling to open up to women


While the history of IT is based on illustrious pioneers, stereotypes persist in this sector and deprive the rapidly expanding cybersecurity industry of many female talents.


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© SARINYAPINNGAM / iStock
Image d’illustration


In ten years, the number of professionals specializing in cybersecurity has doubled. Today, more than 4.5 million of them are fighting increasingly complex threats. Despite the constant need for new experts in this growing sector and very attractive salaries, there are few women. An under-representation which is explained in particular by the reproduction of stereotypes, explained by the site ” The conversation », Which has collected several testimonials from professionals.

5% of cyber experts are women

It is a phenomenon which is not new. Each time a field of knowledge gains importance in society, it becomes more masculine. This is exactly what has happened in the digital world. In her book “Les oubliées du numérique”, the computer scientist and teacher-researcher at the University of Geneva, Isabelle Collet, recalls that in the 1980s, 40% of IT diplomas were awarded to women in Europe and the United States. United.

In the 1990s, the expansion of digital technology profoundly changed IT. Faced with the constant needs of companies to better protect themselves against increasingly sophisticated hackings, the IT security sector has become more prestigious and salaries more attractive. The posts were suddenly intended for men. In France today, only 5% of cyber experts are women. An exclusion of half of Humanity which has a direct impact on the labor market: 4.07 million jobs are vacant worldwide and only 20% are filled in France.

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Fight stereotypes as early as possible

To improve the place of women in this sector, “The conversation” went to meet several professionals to better understand the exclusion mechanisms at work. The first observation is that in this sector, the education system does not encourage young girls to orient themselves towards cybersecurity. Schools and universities still too often maintain clichesFor example, they put little emphasis on female role models, with which women can identify. The fate of Ada Lovelace, the first to have produced a computer program, or that of Grace Hopper, who designed the first compiler, would however arouse vocations. Discrimination that seems to persist in working life. Several women testified to their difficulties in participating in technical training, “naturally offered to men”.

In addition, the figure of the teenager in the hoodie who hacks a multinational from his room remains inked in people’s minds. “I always thought that you had to be a geek to be successful in this field”, testifies one of the interviewees. However, companies are now looking for very different profiles, able to adapt to the new complexities of hacking.

Prove his worth twice as much as a man

Another unfortunate trend observed by the witnesses interviewed is that of discrediting women experts. Despite their skills, women who succeed in entering this sector can still be seen as subordinate. “I have found myself several times in situations where my interlocutors decide to explain simple technical concepts to me just because I am a woman”, confides one interlocutor.

The problem of mansplaining and all the discrimination against women in the field of cybersecurity is that they also end up discouraging the main stakeholders. By dint of seeing their work devalued and without the prospect of development within their company, many experts underestimate themselves, or even refuse to join this sector. In the survey, a recruitment officer deciphers the attitude of candidates in front of a job advertisement depending on whether it is a woman or a man. “I notice that for a published offer, we receive responses from candidates even if they do not meet 100% of the skills stated in the offer. Candidates are more reserved when it comes to more explicit offers. ”

To change attitudes, several associations such as the Circle of Women of CYberSecurity (CEFCYS), campaign to promote and advance the presence and leadership of women in trades related to computer security. Developing education and training programs, making recruiters aware of the importance of parity, but also the general public of cybersecurity issues, will perhaps enable women to regain their place in this sector. According to the Department for the Animation of Research, Studies and Statistics (DARES), between 170,000 and 212,000 digital jobs will need to be filled in France by 2022.

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