Cybersecurity jobs: Why so few women?

MUMBAI: With cybercrime on the rise since the pandemic, the demand for cyber-related talent has gone up substantially. There has been a 25% increase in demand for talent in cyberspace on an annualised basis since the pandemic broke. Industry experts say there’s a war for talent in this segment and, according to TeamLease Services, India is expected to have over 1.5 million unfulfilled job vacancies in cybersecurity by 2025. However, even as organisations scramble to fill in the vacancies, typically from engineering colleges, there’s a big piece that’s missing in the pie: Women.
The percentage of women in cyberspace is extremely low currently. TeamLease Services co-founder & executive VP, Rituparna Chakraborty, said India’s cybersecurity industry is growing fast and the demand for skilled workers in this space has risen accordingly. But, she said, the forecast that has been made for women is only around 11% of the sector’s workforce by 2025.
It turns out organisations are looking for talent where they wouldn’t be too many women candidates, that is, in engineering colleges. The pace of change in cyberspace is pushing some organisations to look at diversity hiring from graduate colleges. They reckon diversity is required to solve complex cyber challenges, given the rate at which cybercrime is growing.
Deloitte India partner Deepa Seshadri said, although organisations look at cyber as technology related, cybersecurity is more of a business issue. “Looking at the rate at which cyberattacks are taking place, it has an inherent human element as well, which also is the weakest link in the chain. Thus, hiring strategies need to be different. When a company is hiring for cyber, they usually look for someone with an engineering background. That’s an unconscious bias. For data and privacy kind of matters, HR professionals would also be suited for such roles,” said Seshadri.
The manner in which cyber is evolving, no matter how skilled a person is at the beginning, they would need to be reskilled and upskilled all the time. That’s the reason why diverse candidates are being encouraged to get into this space. “Diversity can help solve complex issues because, by definition, diversity brings in different perspectives,” said Seshadri.
The number of women in engineering colleges today is still low. Seshadri said the firm is encouraging organisations to recruit from other graduate colleges to ensure diversity hiring in cyberspace.
Deloitte has a ‘Cyber in Women’ programme with the objective of having a diverse talent pool as part of its cyber workforce. The firm focuses on introducing cyber curriculum in non-engineering colleges as well. “In the last 3 months, our recruitment in cyber has been 23% BSC/MSc/BCom/MCA, and 77% BE/BTech/MTech. Earlier, the number was tilted largely towards BE/BTech,” said Seshadri. She believes the sector needs additional women role models who can interest, attract and motivate more women professionals to take up jobs in cybersecurity.
Akamai India MD & VP Prasad Mandava said hiring solely from engineering colleges may not be the best answer as many of the cybersecurity practitioners would have been self-taught or would have upskilled through various online platforms, and hence diversity hiring becomes a game-changer. “Innovation is only possible when the various viewpoints and experiences of a collective culminate to make a great idea. It is the variety of these ideas that is important. To bridge the talent gap, we as an industry must think differently and create opportunities for building a pool of talent that is not only skilled but also diverse,” said Mandava.Cyber Shiksha, the cybersecurity skilling programme by Data Security Council of India (DSCI), is doing its bit through an exclusive programme for women who want to upskill themselves in cybersecurity. Chakraborty said it would be much easier for women who are in senior roles and are returning to work after a break from their professional career to pivot to cybersecurity.
According to a cybersecurity skills report by DSCI & FutureSkills Prime (a MeitY-Nasscom digital skilling initiative), there are over 50,000 jobs that are open in the cybersecurity space. Enhancement of cybersecurity is one of the priorities for 74% of organisations in 2021, according to TeamLease Services. The Indian cybersecurity workforce is likely to be 9% more than the global average.

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