Women in Cybersecurity: Closing the Gender Gap

For over three years, Ann Barron-DiCamillo led the charge to protect the internet infrastructure throughout the United States, defending against cyberattacks and data breaches.

As the chief of the Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) from 2013-2016, Barron-DiCamillo was uniquely positioned to fortify the country’s cybersecurity network.

As a woman, Barron-DiCamillo broke the glass ceiling to take a significant role in cybersecurity. Today, women represent about 50% of the global population but only 11% of the cybersecurity workforce despite having higher levels of education than men overall, according to the 2017 Global Information Security Workforce Study.

According to Fortune Business Insights, the cybersecurity market is projected to grow from $165.78 billion in to $366.10 billion between 2021 and 2028. This, along with 32 million new positions expected to be created between 2018 and 2028 in the United States alone, will provide unprecedented opportunities for women to move into higher-level information security posts.

woman facing computer screen with reflection

The demand for cybersecurity professionals has far outpaced the supply, and salaries are on the rise. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found the median wage in information security to be about $99,730 in 2019. Employment opportunities in the field are also expected to increase nearly 31% between 2019 and 2029, nearly eight times the average growth projected for all career types (4%).

Large companies including Google, IBM, and Facebook are actively recruiting women to fill cybersecurity positions, because the companies realize diverse teams can better identify and neutralize threats.

“Different skill sets are becoming more valued in security instead of just having highly technical employees,” Robb Reck, chief information security officer at Ping Identity in Denver, told the Denver Post. “Anytime you can get diversity, you expand the overall perspective of a group.”

Cybersecurity career opportunities

Every day, hackers work to overcome firewalls and other security protocols. According to a recent report by cyber defense company McAfee, online crime netted a global cost of about $1 trillion in 2020, more than a 50% increase from just two years before. And while many attacks are conducted for financial benefit, a large source of attacks stems from cyberwarfare that can serve as a destabilizing force.

The Hervajec Group, a leading cybersecurity firm, estimates there may be a global shortage of about 3.5 million IT security professions by 2021 as approximately 40,000 cybersecurity jobs go unfilled. In-demand job titles include security analyst, security manager, systems administrator, and security architect.

“Technology has moved so fast over the last couple of years that there’s always a little bit of a lag between when skills are demanded and when training programs and certifications can catch up,” Tim Herbert, of the nonprofit tech trade group CompTIA, told CyberScoop. “There’s also a much greater use of technology across all sectors. The tech sector is the biggest employer of tech skills, but we’re also seeing [an increase in] hiring throughout manufacturing, healthcare, financial services, and down the line. There’s simply more demand relative to supply.”

Challenges for women in cybersecurity

Studies show women are underrepresented in the field of cybersecurity, but the trend is slowly shifting. The emerging change gives women just entering the field an edge over the competition for better jobs. Some of the challenges that women in cybersecurity have faced in the past include the following:

  • Gender bias: Researchers found some of the most common reasons why women do not pursue careers in cybersecurity is because of the gender gap, or the notion that some careers are specifically geared toward gender roles. Early on, computers were marketed toward boys and men, meaning public perception saw computer-related fields as the domain of men. That’s changing now.
  • Gender disparity: Women working in cybersecurity fields have been the focus of conscious and unconscious workplace discrimination, studies show. In one study, 51% of respondents reported some form of discrimination and 87% felt the bias was unconscious.
  • Sexual harassment: Like any industry, sexual harassment occurs too often in the cybersecurity field. However, thanks to efforts that promote women in computer-based workplaces by people like Jane Frankland, founder of the IN Security movement, more women now have an outlet to speak up and level an unfair playing field.

Moving women into cybersecurity

Researchers found companies are taking steps today to move more women into the field of cybersecurity, following recommendations to make workplaces diverse. The push to a comprehensive expansion of women in the field includes the following:

  • Inclusive branding: Information security companies should avoid male-oriented language and military-inspired messaging that promotes a “boys’ club.”
  • Mentoring: Both men and women can serve as mentors for new and rising cybersecurity specialists. Experts recommend mentorship programs that start on the college level.
  • Better recruitment practices: In addition to reaching out to recruitment firms and college campuses, big businesses are taking part in female-oriented information tech conferences around the country.

Trailblazing women in cybersecurity

Today, many women have taken leadership roles in cybersecurity. Barron-DiCamillo, while working at US-CERT, oversaw around-the-clock operations to block cyber threats against the country. As a former vice president of cyber threat intelligence and incident response at American Express, she acknowledged that the once male-focused cybersecurity world has moved beyond stereotypes.

“Cybersecurity is not just programmers in hoodies and a series of zeroes and ones,” she said. Having moved ahead to Managing Director, Global Head of Cyber Operations at Citi, Amy looks toward the future as a defining moment in female and individual empowerment.

Other prominent female cybersecurity experts include:

  • Niloofar Howe: As the chief strategy officer for the cybersecurity firm RSA from 2015 to 2018, Howe has a long history as a venture capitalist, entrepreneur, and leader in the security market.
  • Essye B. Miller: Currently retired from the U.S. Department of Defense’s deputy chief information officer for cybersecurity, Miller was the director of security for the Army chief information officer. She has also held various leadership roles in the U.S. Air Force.
  • Angela McKay: As a former senior director of cybersecurity and strategy for Microsoft, McKay also served as an advisor to former President Barack Obama. As of 2021, she is ‎Director of Emerging Threats and Risk Mitigation – Prevention at ‎Google.

Prepare for a future in cybersecurity

Students enrolled in an online cybersecurity degree program can study topics that are highly relevant to the field, including cryptography, cloud security, and incident handling.

Maryville University’s online Bachelor of Science in Cybersecurity offers advanced training in current ethical hacking techniques, mobile security, digital forensics, and malware analysis. All skills are learned and practiced in Maryville University’s virtual training lab. Upon graduation, students may qualify for high-paying positions such as networking consultant, information security manager, security analyst, or network architect in some of the world’s largest tech companies.

Contact Maryville University for more information, or check out our cybersecurity page to learn more about this and other relevant degree programs we offer.


Cyber Defense Magazine, “Cyber Security Statistics”

CyberScoop, “How to make sense of the wide open cybersecurity job market”

Cybersecurityventures.com, “Cybersecurity Talent Crunch To Create 3.5 Million Unfilled Jobs Globally By 2021″

The Denver Post, “Cybersecurity industry hopes women will help fill 1.8 million jobs”

Forbes Magazine, “Sexual Harassment in the Cyber Security Industry”

Fortune Business Insights, “Cyber Security Market Size, Share, Growth | Trends [2021-2028]”

Harvard Kennedy School, “Women in Cybersecurity”

ISACA.org, “Cyber Security Industry Predictions – Looking at the Decade to Come”

LinkedIn profile, Angela McKay

McAfee, “New McAfee Report Estimates Global Cybercrime Losses to Exceed $1 Trillion”

NPR, “When Women Stopped Coding”

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Information Security Analyst”

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Occupational Employment and Wages: Information Security Analysts”

U.S. Department of Defense profile, Essye B. Miller

U.S. Department of Justice, “How to Protect Your Networks from Ransomware”

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