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Lisa O'Connor
Lisa O'Connor
Managing Director – Accenture Security Cyber Security Research and Development, Accenture Labs
January 04, 2018

How to Close the Gender Gap in Security

Cybersecurity breaches have become increasingly common and their impact can be devastating. It is more important than ever to grow diverse cybersecurity talent. And when it comes to solving the tough challenges, we need to understand the many dimensions of the problem. Diversity of thought helps us understand how to tackle the issue from all sides and develop the most innovative solutions.

As the need for cybersecurity professionals continue to grow, the number of women professionals in the field remains stagnant at only 11 percent, according to the 2017 Women in Cybersecurity Report by the (ISC)², Center for Cyber Safety and Education and Executive Women’s Forum.

Three ways we can attract and retain more women in the cybersecurity field:

  1. Spark interest in cybersecurity with young girls. Our own research on Cracking the Gender Code reveals the long-term importance of showing girls that computing can be cool and fun, and that it's not just for the boys. The same opportunity applies to cybersecurity. We need our educators, parents and mentors to ensure young women view cybersecurity as a rewarding field where they can make valuable contributions.

  2. Make cybersecurity curriculum gender-neutral. During one of our International Women’s Day broadcasts, the President of Harvey Mudd College, Maria Klawe, shared their work at creating a more gender-neutral curriculum and its direct impact on making more students feel welcome in STEM-related areas. This is a great example at how simply changing the narrative in curriculum and communication as educators can have a direct impact in growing interest in cybersecurity. And we need to do this for all levels in education—elementary school on up so we don’t start high school and college with that gender gap already in place.

  3. Attract talent from other mature disciplines. It’s not enough to develop future talent, we need to look at lateral areas for contingent skills that may not be in cybersecurity. There is tremendous talent in fraud, IT and risk that can apply to cybersecurity roles.

It’s also critical to support organizations, like the Executive Women’s Forum (EWF), who are committed to helping attract and advance women to the IT security field.

This October, I had the pleasure of joining more than 400 women leaders for the 15th Annual Executive Women’s Forum National Conference. Our own Annabel Jamieson, associate manager—Accenture Security, presented insights from the 2017 Cyber Threatscape Report to provide a deeper understanding of how the underground criminal ecosystem supports cyber extortion tactics, techniques and procedures, and Tara Khanna, managing director—Accenture Security, highlighted the importance of board composition and governance in addressing cybersecurity.

Closing the Gender Gap in Security

To add to the undeniable energy of EWF, I am proud that Accenture won the Executive Women’s Forum Corporate Award—a recognition given each year to the company that best exemplifies its commitment to promoting and advancing women. With Accenture’s notable milestones this year—promoting a record percentage of women to managing director (30%), growing our women’s headcount to 160,000 worldwide and committing to achieve a gender-balanced workforce by 2020—this award is a true testament to our unwavering support of inclusion and diversity.

I was honored to accept the award on Accenture’s behalf and then shared a few comments with my colleague Ioana Bazavan via Periscope.

While I am incredibly proud of Accenture’s commitment—and the fact that we have an industry-leading 18% women in security at Accenture—we are not stopping there. We want more diversity to ensure continuous innovation in our thinking and solutions.

I encourage you to explore opportunities with Accenture Security today.

Copyright © 2018 Accenture. All rights reserved. Accenture, its logo, and High performance. Delivered. are trademarks of Accenture.

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