BARR Celebrates Women’s Equality Day, Advocates for More Women in Cybersecurity

August 26, 2021 |

Today, August 26, marks the 101st anniversary of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, granting all American women the right to vote, along with legal recognition as equal citizens—also known as Women’s Equality Day. Still today, women remain significantly underrepresented in a number of industries, particularly in leadership positions. One of those industries is cybersecurity. Yes, the very industry BARR Advisory lives and breathes in is part of this worldwide problem.

Women make up 46 percent of the U.S. workforce, yet according to the recent “Cybersecurity Workforce Report” from leading cybersecurity professional organization ISC², the following statistics ring true:

  • Only 24 percent of cybersecurity professionals are women, up from 11 percent in 2013
  • Men outnumber women in cybersecurity three to one
  • Only 25 percent of GAFAM (Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, and Microsoft) employees are female

In general, female cybersecurity professionals are typically younger, likely because of the more recent push to introduce STEM to female students. Nearly half are millennials compared to 33 percent of men in cybersecurity. Generation X equates to 25 percent women and 44 percent men within the industry.

The good news is things are changing. And they seem to be changing quickly. ISC²’s report also indicates women are bringing in higher levels of education and more certifications than their male counterparts, and therefore climbing the leadership ladder at a faster pace. In fact, 52 percent of women in cybersecurity hold a post-graduate degree compared to 44 percent of men. 

Higher percentages of women cybersecurity professionals are reaching positions such as:

  • Chief Technology Officer: Seven percent vs. two percent of men
  • Vice President of IT: Nine percent vs. five percent of men
  • IT Director: 18 percent vs. 14 percent of men
  • C-Level/Executive: 28 percent vs. 19 percent of men

“A lot of companies have made positive strides in their diversity approach and we are starting to see a lot more women in technical roles,” said Julie Mungai, manager, cyber risk advisory. “But we still need to do more to cultivate a culture where girls embrace tech from a young age.” 

We’re proud to say women make up 62 percent of the BARR team. And when it comes to leadership roles, 58 percent of these women hold senior-level positions or higher. 

“I came to BARR about two and a half years ago, and within my first year I was promoted from senior consultant to manager,” said Whitney Perez, manager, cyber risk advisory. “I’m proud to be surrounded by so many incredible female industry leaders, both at BARR and in positions within our client and partner organizations. I’m lucky to have had a number of women as mentors to help me get to where I am today, and I’m happy to serve as a mentor for other women who are eager to learn the ropes.”

Perez comes from an accounting background, venturing into IT and SOC auditing while attending her university’s career fair. She hopes more women will consider it as a career path.

Whitney Perez describes the importance of female mentors.“Don’t be afraid because you feel like you don’t know anything about cybersecurity,” said Perez. “What I have found more than anything is that this industry is full of insightful people who love to share knowledge and help others succeed.”

Although BARR associates work remotely across the country, the company is headquartered in Kansas City—the U.S. city with the smallest gender pay gap where women earn 102 percent of what men earn for the same tech job. 

We asked Kyle Helles, director, cyber risk advisory, and one of the female leaders at BARR with the longest tenure, why she feels it is important for women to have a place in tech. 

“Cybersecurity and tech issues require creative solutions driven by technical knowledge, critical analysis skills, collaboration, and thought diversity. Without women working to help solve these issues, we’ll be highly unlikely to come to the best possible outcome. With the amount and sensitivity of data companies are being trusted with increasing every day, we would be at a great loss without the unique perspectives of women.”

Kyle Helles wants readers to know if they're passionate about cybersecurity, they belong in cybersecurity.Helles also noted the growing demand for cybersecurity professionals and the widening skills gap in tech. “We need all hands on deck to fill these open positions. Young women interested in joining the tech industry should absolutely feel empowered and encouraged. We need their help.”

Oftentimes, the lack of female mentors in the tech industry can turn potential female candidates away. And, believe it or not, only five percent of tech startup founders are women. For that, Mungai has this piece of advice:

“While I believe it is important to be vocal and emphasize the importance of women getting seats—especially leadership seats in the tech space—it is equally important to tell young girls they don’t need to wait for these seats to be offered. We can build our own tables.”

Julie Mungai wants to see more women taking on leadership roles in the tech industry.If you’re a woman considering a career in cybersecurity, here is something to keep in mind from Helles: “Dive in and be patient with yourself. Know that no one, no matter their gender, is born with a cybersecurity skill set. If you’re passionate about cybersecurity, you belong in cybersecurity.” 

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