Healthcare facing a cybersecurity gender gap

Healthcare among industries with highest increase in demand for cybersecurity workers
Keyhole and computer code

There is a wide gap between young men and women who indicate they might consider a career in Internet security, according to a new survey commissioned by government contractor Raytheon and the National Cyber Security Alliance.

In fact, the disparity is five times what it was a year ago, the results show.

Globally, the disinterest of young adults in cybersecurity careers is epidemic – especially among women, Raytheon executives conclude, adding that the results cast doubt on whether the future will see enough qualified professionals working to keep the Internet safe.

The annual study, Securing Our Future: Closing the Cyber Talent Gap, indicates that the widening gender gap among young adults inclined to pursue a cybersecurity career may signal that young women are being shut out.

"There will be serious implications for the world's security, safety and economic stability if we don't figure out how to foster a cybersecurity workforce capable of protecting our information from increasingly harmful cyber threats," Jack Harrington, vice president of cybersecurity and special missions for Raytheon's Intelligence, Information and Services business, said in a news release. "We have our work cut out for us to encourage young adults to pursue this profession and to address the widening gender gap – particularly here in the U.S." 

[See also: Meet the speakers at the HIMSS and Healthcare IT News Privacy and Security Forum.]  

A separate study from Burning Glass supports the Raytheon findings and adds to the worries about whether there will be enough qualified candidates to take on the security work that is anticipated.

"Cybersecurity was once the province of defense contractors and government agencies, but ... we find hiring has boomed in industries like finance, health care, and retail," Burning Glass writes in Job Market Intelligence: Cybersecurity Jobs, 2015, its most recent report on the topic.

Burning Glass found the fastest increases in demand for cybersecurity workers are in industries managing increasing volumes of consumer data such as finance (+137 percent over the last five years), healthcare (+121 percent), and retail trade (+89 percent).

"We are also seeing multiple signs that demand for these workers is outstripping supply," according to the report. "Job postings for cybersecurity openings have grown three times as fast as openings for IT jobs overall and it takes companies longer to fill cybersecurity positions than other IT jobs. That's bad for employers but good news for cybersecurity workers, who can command an average salary premium of nearly $6,500 per year, or 9 percent more than other IT workers."

Zogby Analytics conducted the Raytheon survey of nearly 4,000 young adults aged 18-26 across four global regions. The goal was to identify the root causes of the cyber talent gap as part of a shared long-term commitment to building a robust talent pipeline.
Despite growing curiosity about cyber careers, many young adults indicate their education and networking opportunities are not keeping pace with their needs. For example, only 60 percent of survey respondents say a computer was introduced to their classrooms by age 9. Additionally, women appear to be disadvantaged when it comes to networking opportunities, as men were twice as likely as women to have spoken with a cybersecurity professional, according to the study.

[See also: Richard Clarke's worst cybersecurity nightmare.]

"Not only are we missing obvious opportunity to remediate a global shortfall of cybersecurity workers, but we're also seeing the problem compounded by leaving women behind when it comes to cybersecurity education, programs and careers," Valecia Maclin, program director of cybersecurity and special missions at Raytheon, said in a statement.

"It's critical that public and private partnerships focus on encouraging young girls to foster an interest in science, technology, engineering and math, so that more women are prepared to enter this burgeoning field and help create a diverse, talented workforce."

"There seems to be latent interest in cyber careers, as half of young adults say believing in the mission of their employer is important and 63 percent say making money is important," added Michael Kaiser, executive director of the National Cyber Security Alliance. "Cybersecurity jobs offer a clear path to both--we just need to do a better job of spreading the word."

Key findings from the Raytheon study include:

  • Globally, 47 percent of men say they are aware of the typical range of responsibilities and job tasks involved in the cyber profession, compared to 33 percent of women.
  • In the U.S., 67 percent of men and 77 percent of women said no high school or secondary school teacher, guidance or career counselor ever mentioned the idea of a cybersecurity career.
  • Globally, 62 percent of men and 75 percent of women said no secondary or high school computer classes offered the skills to help them pursue a career in cybersecurity.
  • Globally, 52 percent of women, compared to 39 percent of young men, said they felt no cybersecurity programs or activities were available to them.

Zogby Analytics conducted the Raytheon survey from July 29 to Aug.10, 2015. The responses were generated from a survey of 3,871 adults in Australia, Estonia, France, Germany, Japan, Poland, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Saudi Arabia, UK, United Arab Emirates, and the U.S., ages 18 to 26. The margin of error for the survey was plus or minus 1.6 percentage points at a 95 percent confidence level. The 2013, 2014 and 2015 surveys sampled different individuals.

Read the Raytheon survey results here.

Read the Burning Glass Report here

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