Unless you’ve spent the last two months hiding under a rock, you’ve very likely noticed the growing awareness of sexual assault and harassment that is a standard part of life for the majority of women. The #metoo movement brought forward so many stories of the day-to-day threats that women deal with while merely navigating through the world.
So what does this have to do with cybersecurity and why women should be the future of this industry?
I was reading the various #metoo stories that were plastered all over social media recently, which made me realize something: Women are already security experts.
I read tales of women wearing headphones with no music playing in them to maintain awareness of their environment (while putting up a wall against unwanted communications). Stories of carrying their keys in their hands like make-shift weapons, even walking past their apartments and around the block so that someone following them didn’t know where they lived. When is the last time a man who wasn’t an actual spy felt the need to employ counter-espionage tactics of that nature regularly? How many men operate phone chains on a night out with the boys where everyone checks in with everyone else at the end of the festivities to ensure that everyone made it home safely? These are things that women do all of the time.
Whether we like it or not, we live in a society that raises women to be disproportionately responsible for their personal safety, particularly their sexual safety. This heightened security awareness is a skill that translates! Security is security, whether the space secured is physical or cyber; and employment of policies to mitigate risk is a significant portion of that battle.
Ladies, I would like to let you in on a secret: you do not need to be a super hacker to secure information systems. The work of cybersecurity is just as much about writing, dictating policy, and procedure as it is deploying technical solutions. One of these things is already second nature to you; you just need to learn the cyber applications for this skillset.
Outside of the fact that women have been socially conditioned to think about safety and security on a near constant basis, there are two other reasons they should consider joining the field of cybersecurity:
The first: There is a projected shortfall of cybersecurity professionals between 1 and 1.5 MILLION people in this country in the next decade. That is everything from analysts to security architects and engineers, to auditors and policy authors and even executive level positions like Chief Information Security Officers (CISO’s). There are currently around five positions open for every cybersecurity professional in the country.
The second? CLOSE THE WAGE GAP! Look at the numbers above; cybersecurity professionals are in high demand, and that comes with a high salary. In the right metropolitan area, an entry-level security analyst can make as much as a mid-level administrative worker, maybe more. Transitioning to cybersecurity is not a career shift that will come with a considerable pay cut for most women, and in a few years, the payoff can be phenomenal.
So how do you get started? Study for and achieve your CompTIA Security+ certification. It’s a rock-solid baseline, and since CompTIA certifications are technology agnostic, it doesn’t limit your options the way a Red Hat or Windows certification might.
Of course, if you want to add seriously in-demand skillset on top of that, take the time to learn Splunk. They have some free training available, and you can download the software and all of the documentation for free — so you really can teach yourself the product. It’s an exceptional tool that is widely used in cybersecurity operations centers (SOC’s) around the country and knowing how to use it will help when going out for some of those entry-level analyst positions.
And finally, don’t allow a lack of a degree or one in 18th Century French Literature dissuade you from really considering this shift. A couple of certifications, a comfort with IT and security jargon and a few years of experience will render that a moot point. Some of the highest paid engineers I know have zero degrees, and it’s not stopping them from getting paid to play with computers all day. I wrote a couple of other articles on how you can teach yourself IT if you want some more resources.
Now go forth and secure cyberspace. It needs it.
(This article was originally posted on Medium.com)