Cybersecurity: A Threat Or An Opportunity?

While cybersecurity is nothing new, its recent, rapid growth is undeniable. Hackers who were once infantile are now so sophisticated that they can steal personal identify information from millions of people in one hack. Every country, every sector, and every company has now realized the importance of cybersecurity.

This means that America will need to continue to prioritize our cyber marketplace and cultivate the workforce required to successfully support it. Currently, the White House estimates there are more than 300,000 unfilled IT jobs in the US. In the state of Virginia alone, there are over 36,000 unfilled cyber-related jobs.

But, we shouldn’t view this gap in the workforce as a challenge or threat. Rather, this gap is an opportunity to inspire women, and minorities, to help fill these jobs. Today, it is estimated that while women make up almost 40% of workers globally, women represent only 11% of the cyber workforce – an uninspiring number. However, there were 1 million cyber-related openings last year worldwide, openings that could easily have been filled by women.

That’s why I’m attending the annual NATO Cyber Security Symposium (NIAS): To attract women to the field.

This week, I’ll be joining NATO Deputy Secretary General, Rose Gottemoeller, and female cyber experts from the government, private sector, and academia to dispel the myths around cyber and facilitate a discussion on how we can bring more women into the field.

Following Thursday’s discussion, I’ll be sharing strategies and programs that private and public-sector professionals can implement to get more women into the cyber world. For now, let’s debunk some myths that delay women from starting their education and career in cyber:

Myth: You have to join the military to be a cyber warfighter.

Fact: There are a huge number of civilian and private sector jobs that allow you to contribute to the mission.

Myth: You need an engineering degree from an Ivy League school to get a good job in the industry. 

Fact: The cyber field has a very diverse set of jobs – from policy and engineering to project management and sales. Many of the jobs may not even require a college degree. Instead they value a cyber certificate, which can be earned through an 18-month community college program.

Myth: Cybersecurity jobs are round the clock operations, with little to no work-life balance.

Fact: The cyber challenge may exist 24/7, but with the right management and team, you don’t have to work night and day to contribute. Many women are intimidated by the field due to the demanding time restraints, but there are a lot of impressive women who have found balance and you can too.

NIAS is set to provide insight into the changing perceptions of gender in the industry – exciting things to come for women in cyber!

Adrienne Schweer is a senior vice president at Forbes Tate Partners and former Chief of Protocol in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, where she served under Secretaries Chuck Hagel, Ash Carter, and James Mattis.