Everyone needs good IT security these days and while there’s zero unemployment in cybersecurity there are also not enough people to fill the pipeline. CompTIA is working to bridge that gap for girls and women of all ages.
“You have to have diversity of thought and diversity of experience in order to address the whole ecosystem,” said Kathleen Martin, CompTIA staff member. “Getting women into these advanced IT roles is critically important.”
People working in the business of technology can have an impact on the number of women getting into cybersecurity, from middle and high school through career women looking to pivot into a new career. Use these tips to make security more accessible to people who may not have considered it an option.
Women Pivoting Careers
Bridging the confidence gap is the most important thing we can do right now to get women into cybersecurity. Cybersecurity is a great field for women, who can start with projects like penetration testing to look for vulnerabilities in a clients’ systems without much technical training. “People are afraid there’s a big learning curve,” said Martin. “We’ve got to get women to stop self-selecting out of cybersecurity jobs.”
Mentors can help bridge the confidence gap. For those who want to be mentors, BYTE, a program by CompTIA’s Future Leaders Community, offers resources like Five Steps to Becoming an Amazing Mentor and connections to STEM mentoring groups. BYTE prepares future tech leaders to engage with their own children and youth in their community, as well as with local teachers, schools and nonprofits to help next generations become aware of their ability to have a career in tech.
Other CompTIA resources include How to Succeed in Tech: Tips for Your First Year as an IT Pro and Are You Ready for a Career Change?
High School and College Students
The No. 1 goal of teenagers is “having a job I love” according to Teen Views of Tech Careers study by Creating IT Futures. According to the study, kids don’t want to be stuck in offices, and “the fact that many IT professionals are out in the field or work from home could be important messages to share.”
The study also found that parents want their children to have a more successful job or career than they did, make more money than they did, and have the ability to do things the parents didn’t get a chance to do—the question becomes do parents have enough information and knowledge to be good career guides for their children? BYTE also addresses the parent information gap.
To raise interest in your company among students, reach out to the IT teachers you know at tech schools and local colleges to promote IT certifications and bootcamps that can help women leapfrog into cybersecurity. Companies can partner with Creating IT Futures to sponsor bootcamps or FUSE labs. Developed by researchers at Northwestern University, FUSE transforms the typical school intern computer lab into the site of self-directed learning in which students level-up in tech challenges as they would a video game.
Sponsor students who want to get certified and help them map a course into IT using certifications. In addition to internships, you encourage people to earn industry-recognized IT certifications and offer study materials, mentorship and a chance to sit for the A+ exam.
Getting girls interested in technology early is a key to fostering a tech career later on. The choice to opt out happens early—middle school girls will decide to drop their technology interests if it’s not engaging enough. “We’ve got to get girls involved before they opt out,” said Martin.
Encourage interested students to join the Technology Student Association (TSA), a national, non-profit organization of middle and high school student members who are engaged in STEM. There are TSA meetups in every state where you can share your own IT story, show up and table for your company and answer questions about what it’s like to work in tech.
For hands-on ideas, check out the TSA's cybersecurity problems that are solvable on a middle school level. Develop a talk to explain the importance of why you shouldn’t reuse passwords and how multi-factor authentication can prevent a breach. For advanced groups, explain how you would address concerns from employees about having multiple passwords and having to deal with multi-factor authentication.
TechGirlz is another group that works to get middle school girls engaged with technology in fun and creative ways. You can teach or sponsor a workshop, or help the teachers in your community with hands-on tech exercises they can do in class. You can use the workshops from TechGirlz or offer your own training for teachers.
“Show them ways they can incorporate tech into lessons, and find ways to get that curriculum to them,” said Martin.
BYTE also includes resources for this age group, like 19 tech activities for middle schoolers that will bring out kids’ inner-mathematician, and parents and educators can request free copies of How to Launch Your Teen’s Career in Technology: A Parent’s Guide to the T in STEM Education by contacting Lisa Fasold.