It's no secret that all industries benefit from increased diversity. And while significant changes have been made in the last decade to make the workforce more diverse, there's still a lack of representation, specifically gender diversity, especially in the security industry. For example, women currently make up only 11 percent of the cybersecurity workforce.
Women face unique entry barriers in the security industry, discouraging many from pursuing careers in the industry in the first place. At the same time, many security leaders come from a law enforcement background, a traditionally male-dominated profession. This trickledown effect, combined with a lack of recruiting and mentorship opportunities, means the security workforce is drastically lacking in gender diversity. When companies prioritize female leadership development and break the stigma, they create diversity of thought in the process, driving their own success.
The Benefits of Gender Inclusivity in Security and Beyond
Research has shown that gender-diverse teams perform better than single-gender teams. The University of Amsterdam found that teams with an equal representation of gender had improved “mutual monitoring,” wherein employees hold each other accountable, resulting in greater quality of work. In addition, research shows that teams with gender-diversity make better decisions 73 percent of the time, compared to 58 percent of the time for all-male teams.
More diversity naturally leads to a multitude of viewpoints, generating more creative paths to success. When companies make gender diversity a priority, they simultaneously make problem solving, creativity and cooperation a priority as well. Outside of performance, companies with gender diversity far exceed their competitors in revenue generation. In fact, gender-diverse businesses are 15 percent more likely to see above-average revenue. Diversity in teams isn’t just fair, it’s good business.
Steps For a Gender-Diverse Workplace
The workforce skills gap is widening. This is a significant opportunity to attract individuals who are otherwise dissuaded from joining the industry. So how exactly can security companies break the stigma and recruit women?
To start, security companies need to evaluate their hiring process to remove unintended biases. Small adjustments can make a powerful difference when potential hires review your company. For instance, consider how your web presence is perceived by a prospective female applicant: leveraging gender inclusive language in job descriptions and company verbiage indicates that gender diversity is prioritized at your company. In addition, making diversity a part of your core values, or overall mission, signals to women and other underrepresented groups that they are welcome and valued in your organization. These changes make a lasting positive impression on individuals considering applying to open jobs.
Creating women-focused training, networking events and mentorship programs in your organization is crucial for recruitment. In fact, 25 percent of millennials view investment in employee training as a top factor when considering a new job. For example, groups like Women’s Resource Network work to empower female employees to establish a professional development and mentoring community. These networking groups and programs are not only attractive for recruitment purposes, but helps current female employees develop their skills and advance in their careers. Employee turnover is a challenge for every company, but it’s especially high for female employees, and even more so for women of color. Establishing space in your company for women’s career development and clearly defining it as a core value promotes long-term employee retention.
As women take on leadership positions, they pave the way for others to do the same. This chain-reaction of female advancement creates sustainable diversity. The result is a diverse workplace environment where every individual feels confident, welcome and empowered to succeed.
Breaking the Security Industry Gender Stigma
The security industry, much like any other industry, can only benefit from increased gender diversity. Prioritizing gender equality and female career advancement is critical for companies to continue to grow and innovate, especially in such a male-dominated environment. When we create space for gender inclusivity, we also create space for diversity of thought, improved teamwork, higher revenue generation and greater problem solving. Investing in this gender diversity is an investment in your company’s success.