CISA’s Easter calls to close the gender gap in cyberspace

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Diversity is a priority in the cybersecurity pipeline

Statistics on women in the cybersecurity workforce may vary depending on the data source, according to New America report. However, the gender gap itself is only part of a more complex problem.

At almost every level of the cybersecurity workforce, women are paid less than their male counterparts. More than half (51%) had experienced discrimination, while only 15% of men said the same, the report said.

Easterly’s speech comes as nearly 600,000 cybersecurity jobs in the United States are unfilled, even as President Joe Biden has urged companies to “immediately beef up your cyber defenses” in response to growing Russian threats, Bloomberg reports.

“The cyber threat landscape is becoming more complex, more dynamic and more dangerous every day,” Easterly said.

LEARN MORE: Federal agencies are training workers to be more data savvy.

Yet in a field that seeks to eradicate vulnerabilities, promote zero trust, and work with artificial intelligence, Easterly joked that she was trying to do the opposite at CISA by creating a vulnerability-based culture, confidence and emotional intelligence.

One of her top priorities as Director of CISA is to build a diverse pool of workers, so that women and girls everywhere can see themselves in cyber and at CISA, specifically.

“We’ve built an organization that recognizes that to attract and retain incredible talent, we must create an environment of psychological safety where everyone feels valued and empowered and always treated with dignity and respect,” she said.

“We’re creating a culture that recognizes the importance of not only welcoming diversity, but really, really celebrating it. Because diversity – neurodiversity, diversity of gender identity, sexual orientation, race, national origin, age, background – all of this equals diversity of thought and that makes us better solvers problems, better puzzle solvers.

Partnerships provide more learning experiences for future coders

Last year, CISA announced a partnership with girls who code, an international non-profit organization that teaches coding to school-aged girls. The partnership aims to address disparities in diversity by raising awareness of careers in technology and cybersecurity and working with employers in the sector to create pathways for young women – and especially young women of color – to acquire practical work experience.

“At Girls Who Code, we imagine a world where our IT classrooms are as diverse as our communities,” Girls Who Code CEO Tarika Barrett said in a statement. Press release. “This partnership with CISA is an important step in making that future a reality.”

EXPLORE: The large gender gap in local government leadership.

The Department of Homeland Securitythe parent agency of CISA, was also a partner of the Girl Scout Cybersecurity Awareness Challenge 2021which offered girls in grades 6-12 the opportunity to learn about cybersecurity, practice key concepts, and demonstrate acquired knowledge and skills.

One of the goals of the challenge, launched in August, was to “help develop the next generation of diverse cybersecurity talent and build our nation’s cybersecurity resilience,” according to a Press release.

Easterly told WiCyS that his “ambitious” goal is to see women make up 50% of the population in the cybersecurity industry by 2030.

“Without more women in our field, we know we’re short on incredible talent,” she said. “I saw the future of cybersecurity, and my sisters, this is us.”

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