Women in industry: Gender disparity in cybersecurity explored in new research

by | Apr 16, 2024 | Public Relations

The bleak truth is that no industry is safe from gender disparity, even in these progressive times, but it’s not necessarily clear what the core causes are of these situations (besides good ‘ol antiquated thinking, of course). But eye-opening new research from tech industry-focused nonprofit Women in CyberSecurity (WiCyS) not only reveals the state of inequity, but discerns the real causes of disparities in the experiences of women in cybersecurity. 

The women’s advancement organization’s first-of-its-kind report, 2023 State of Inclusion in Cybersecurity, in collaboration with DEI firm Aleria, is based on data collected from just over 1,000 employees including approximately 35 percent men and 65 percent women, representing more than 20 different organizations.

gender disparity

“Previous research has consistently shown a distinct underrepresentation of women in cybersecurity, but we’ve been in the dark about the root causes and the solutions,” said Lynn Dohm, executive director of WiCyS, in a news release. “This revolutionary study changes that narrative. Armed with hard data and compelling firsthand accounts, we’re shedding light on the specific obstacles that women face. For the first time, we’re equipped with both the quantitative data and qualitative stories necessary to identify and dismantle the systemic barriers that hinder the recruitment, hiring, retention and advancement of women in cybersecurity.”

The report points out the widespread gender disparities in the cybersecurity workplace. Women encounter exclusion at twice the rate of men—signaling a pressing need for industry-wide cultural and procedural changes to enhance inclusivity. The research also highlights that women are five times more likely to report exclusion from direct managers and peers, pointing to a critical area for organizations to address in creating a more supportive and inclusive work environment.

gender disparity

Additional key findings:

  • The top four categories of exclusion faced by women are Respect, Career & Growth, Access & Participation and Recognition, signaling critical intervention points. Women report 350 percent more exclusion in Recognition and 250 percent more in Respect than their male counterparts.
  • The exclusion index for women is substantially higher across all categories, with distinct disparities, especially in Recognition (450 percent higher) and Respect (250 percent higher).
  • The data shows a glass ceiling effect, with 48 percent of women experiencing issues related to Career & Growth, significantly more than the 26 percent of men who report similar experiences.
  • Individuals with (dis)abilities and those with intersectional identities experience levels of workplace exclusion comparable to, or even exceeding, those related to gender, emphasizing the compounded impact of multiple differing identity traits.
  • Inclusive practices increase employee satisfaction, productivity, engagement and loyalty by significant margins, concurrently enhancing organizational revenues and retention while reducing costs and risks.

“This report underscores the tangible impact of inclusive policies. Organizations have a clear opportunity to significantly boost their financial results and employee satisfaction by addressing these disparities,” said Paolo Gaudiano, founder and chief scientist of Aleria, in the release. “Our analysis suggests that a company with $1 billion in revenue could be losing approximately $23 million annually due to differential treatment of women and people of color. This highlights the critical financial incentive companies gain from an inclusive workplace.”

gender disparity

Read the full report here.

The report underscores the crucial significance of WiCyS’s mission and initiatives, which are focused on promoting a more inclusive and equitable cybersecurity environment. It recognizes that diversity goes beyond mere metrics and serves as a major competitive advantage that directly influences economic success. 

Richard Carufel
Richard Carufel is editor of Bulldog Reporter and the Daily ’Dog, one of the web’s leading sources of PR and marketing communications news and opinions. He has been reporting on the PR and communications industry for over 17 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders. Reach him at richard.carufel@bulldogreporter.com; @BulldogReporter


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