Cybersecurity is one of the most exciting industries to work in – but the current gender balance is far from ideal. Men are still a significant majority (approximately 80%) of the workforce, making security disciplines a less attractive career option for women.

So how can we begin to address the imbalance? And how can women break into cybersecurity and build successful careers for themselves?

Sharpen your skills

Cybersecurity skills are in great demand, so if you have the ability to do the job, you will find it much easier to secure a role within the industry. Check popular job websites to see the kind of roles that are available and the skills that employers want most.

Use this research to begin planning your personal development. Check to see if your current employer will pay for you to cross-train in those disciplines – they may have special training budgets and allowances specifically for providing female employees with new opportunities.

Join a specialist association

There are a number of excellent associations set up specifically to support women working in cybersecurity – or who are looking to break into the industry. Many are completely free to join and some, like The Diana Initiative, also offer scholarships to female students who are training in IT security-related disciplines.

You should also take a look at the globally recognised Information Systems Security Association (ISSA) website. Using the collective experience and knowledge of their expert membership, ISSA has defined a “Cyber Security Career Lifecycle” that maps out how to build a successful career. The lifecycle plan even has a pre-professional section aimed at women who have not yet begun working in cybersecurity, providing useful resources to help start them on their journey.

SEIDEA serves an even less well represented minority – BAME Women in Cybersecurity. Their website provides links to several free training courses and a special podcasts that addresses the challenges faced by BAME women at work. SEIDEA also organise a series of lectures and events for members throughout the year. There’s even an online internship program to turbocharge your learning and experience.

It’s also worth noting that many of these associations provide community forums where women can share their experiences and advice about working in cybersecurity. These forums are a good place for beginners to ask questions and have them answered by other women who have beaten the odds and broken into the male-dominated IT security industry.

You can find an extensive list of groups and associations here.

Cybersecurity is a growth industry that offers women a challenging workload and a very good remuneration package. In order to obtain the skills they need, employers are actively encouraging women to get involved and to help establish a new, more equal gender balance.