The challenge of gender diversity in cybersecurity
It’s no secret that the gender gap in cybersecurity is a worldwide issue. Women are less
represented than men in this industry and they face disadvantages like pay gaps and discrimination.
Each year, the International Information System Security Certification Consortium (ISC)² delivers a study of women in the cybersecurity workforce to assess the situation and evolution of cybersecurity professionals. Despite the inequalities, the (ISC)² found a positive increase in the percentage of women working in cybersecurity, growing from 11% in 2017 to 24% in 2019.
Committing to the cybersecurity career path
Many companies and individuals have taken up the cause, creating organizations to fight this disparity. Among them, we found movements organized by women to raise awareness and help increase recruitment and retention rates of women, and narrow gender and skill gaps.
The 2019 (ICS)² report on Women in Cybersecurity provides better metrics for this gender gap. According to the study, women who enter in cybersecurity are more educated (52% of them holding a post-graduate degree) and aiming for managerial positions, such as:
Helping talented women build their careers
At Atos, we have taken it upon ourselves to tackle this issue. We have increased the number of women executives to match the industry level, and half of our hiring is gender diverse. For example, the Atos Scientific Community announced in 2020 that they had reached equality of women and men on their board.
On a Group level, we grew from having 13% of women executives at the beginning of 2020 to 30% today — the direct outcome of several initiatives. One of the most significant was the “Future women leaders’ program,” aimed at raising awareness of the importance of gender diversity and providing support for women’s career progression.
This was achieved through coaching, mentoring by global executives, webinars, account sponsorship programs and direct interaction on specific topics. By providing a holistic view of this talented pool of women, we saw an immediate increase in their perceptions of career advancement within Atos. Externally, Atos was recognized as The Times Top 50 Employer for Women in the UK and Ireland for 2019.
We also have established defined near-term targets, such as:
Increased women participation in talent programs
50% women in the Atos leadership development program (called FUEL)
40% women in executive programs, such as GOLD for business leaders
30% women in the GOLD for technology leaders program
For cybersecurity, women make up 22% of the workforce, which we plan to increase in upcoming years.
We have global mentoring programs to support female talent, encourage local young talent and set clear promotion paths for our senior women. Such programs have increased locally. For instance, Romania has several initiatives, including Atos Talks, where women are ambassadors that guide students on career opportunities and share their experiences. Similarly, the “IT on Heels” program aims to create a supportive space for women to grow together.
These initiatives are part of the reason Atos was recognized by Parity.org in 2020 for its commitment to women’s advancement in the workplace.
The impact of programs for women in Atos Digital Security
The Women in Atos digital security program had a widespread effect, and its adoption across Atos has led to a significant rise in women in various positions. Today, nearly one-fourth of our workforce is female.
Compared to men, higher percentages of women now hold positions in marketing, sales operations and sales delivery support. We have a large contingent of women working as project managers, service delivery managers and business management, even though the male workforce is predominant.
However, we still see a huge gap in professions such as:
• Architecture, where women occupy only 6% of the overall workforce
• Security Engineer (13%)
• Sales and Client Management (14%)
• Business Management (15%)
• Security Consultancy and Management (16%)
• ICT Consulting (19%)
Other roles are mainly executed by men, for example solution and system management.
The Cybersecurity Services group has the most women in different roles. For example, there are around 100 women working as service delivery support and delivery managers. More than 90 women are deployed as security engineers and more than 50 women hold consultancy positions in security, business, and management.
Young women: A chance to close the workplace gender gap
By age group, most women cybersecurity professionals are less than 40 years old — where millennials account for 67%. A solid strategy to close the gender gap is to increase the number of women who start their careers in Atos. Currently, only 9% of our female employees are less than 24 years old. However, compared to their male counterparts, females born between 1981 and 1996 account for 15% of the workforce, compared to 46% of millennial males entering and continuing their professional career in Atos.
The importance of hiring young female talent is crucial for Atos to pioneer the future of digital security. As we adopt advanced technologies, we will need women to develop use cases for blockchain-secured transactions and advanced robotics. These talents will help shape the future of smart aerospace, smart defense, OT security and cybersecurity.
We know that our path to bridge the underrepresentation is a long one. However, our organization is striving to encourage more women to pursue cybersecurity and offering them an equal opportunity to rise to senior leadership positions. As a contribution to addressing this imbalance, this magazine will collaborate with various women working in the industry to promote their projects and open a window to hear their stories on cybersecurity and the protection of our digital world.
About the authors
Global Head of Human Resources
BDS Digital Security and Global Delivery Centers
Head of Human Resources Atos CVC Croatia
Mirela Sola is Global Head of Human Resources for Big Data & Security – Digital Security business in Atos, responsible for building, transformation and growth of human capital of the organization through partnership with business, in the areas of Cybersecurity products and services, and Mission critical systems, as well as for HR leadership in nearshore and offshore Big Data & Security delivery capacities.
With M.A in Psychology, educated in the field of Human Resources Strategy in London Business School, certified SHRM-SCP, Mirela encompasses more than 20 years of international HR executive experiences in different industries – ICT, telco, phamaceuticals, banking.
Combining authentic care for the streamlined and systematic development of individuals and teams, with strong delivery focus, she fosters sustainable magnification of the businesses.
Maria Jose Carvajal
Associate Cybersecurity Consulting Group, Atos
Maria Jose is an Associate Consultant at Atos. Her focus is providing cybersecurity solutions and strengthening Atos’s client’s security posture across various enterprises from several countries around the world. She has participated in shaping the strategy, design, and implementation of a variety of cybersecurity programs, helping companies secure their ecosystem and build cyber capabilities that go beyond compliance to enable business transformation and innovation. She also has taken a leading role in the Cybersecurity Magazine and in the Atos Operational Technology Training, coordinating all efforts to bring these initiatives to life.
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