The opportunity for women to work in cybersecurity is huge. Today, women make up only 25% of the global cybersecurity workforce so it’s more important than ever to encourage and empower women to pursue these careers, writes Microsoft corporate vice president Kate Behncken in a blog post announcing expansion of the company’s Cybersecurity Skills Initiative. The program covers 28 countries around the world, partnering with nonprofits and other educational institutions to train cybersecurity professionals.
“The past few years have seen cybercriminals target the media, businesses, and governments, and the volume is staggering”, she writes quoting the company’s Digital Defence Report showing the volume of password attacks has risen to an estimated 921 attacks every second – a 74% increase in just one year.”
“Cyberattacks often have devastating impacts – the average cost of a cyber breach has reached $4.35 million.”
“At the same time, we are facing a global cybersecurity skills crisis. Demand for cybersecurity skills has grown by an average of 35% over the past year. And in some countries, like Brazil, demand has grown as much as 76%. We simply don’t have enough people with the skills to defend against cybersecurity attacks, putting people, businesses, and governments around the world at risk.”
“We’ve learned a lot throughout our work so far – and addressing diversity gaps requires intentionality in program design and execution. We must create more inclusive and supportive learning environments, and we see greater success in building confidence and soft skills among women with cohorts that are majority women.”
She is announcing partnerships with organizations focused on skilling women in cybersecurity:
- WOMCY, a nonprofit focused on growing opportunity for women in cybersecurity in Latin America
- Women4Cyber, a foundation working to promote and support the participation of women in cybersecurity in Europe
- The International Telecommunications Union – an agency of the United Nations – supporting their Women in Cyber Mentorship Program with a special emphasis on the Middle East, Africa, and Asia
- WiCyS, a global community of women, allies, and advocates dedicated to advancing women in cybersecurity
- The company is also partnering at the country and local level to grow the number of women in the field, working with organizations like the Kosciuszko Institute in Poland, a skilling and internship program for women, including Ukrainian refugees, and more than 20 other nonprofit organizations that are similarly focused on training women learners towards employment opportunities.
“We have learned that nonprofits, higher education, and other skilling organizations relish the opportunity to learn from each other through facilitated exchanges, and bringing them together to share best practices helps scale impact. As a result, our expanded strategy will include a community of practice to support the continued growth of our nonprofit partners.”
Working with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Microsoft has released part one of a study on the skills gap in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
“The report found the demand for cybersecurity professionals has increased significantly over the last decade: In June 2022, there were as many as 16 times the number of cybersecurity job advertisements as in 2012 – almost double the speed of expansion recorded for all new job postings in the same period.”