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Survey to measure cyber gender diversity in Australia | information age

Calling all cyber professionals to complete an important survey. Photo: Shutterstock

Australian researchers are encouraging safety and security workers to take part in a gender representation census that will provide the first accurate understanding of how the country’s workforce compares to global benchmarks.

The survey, called the Australian Security Industry Workforce – Understanding Gender Dimensions Projectwill be open until September 19 and seeks feedback from anyone working in the information security, physical security, protective security, personnel security and cybersecurity industries.

Entrants can be of any gender, only need to have worked in industry in Australia at some point in the last five years, and have worked in a security or security-adjacent role.

“By having a baseline and a clearer picture of the actual number of women working in the security industry, this study will allow us to measure the success of initiatives aimed at attracting, supporting and retaining women in the industry” , said Jacqui Loustau, executive director of the Australian Women in Security Network (AWSN), Australia’s leading organization advocating for diversity in cybersecurity and co-sponsor of the survey.

Among its results will be a clearer picture of the gender diversity of Australia’s local cybersecurity sector, which has typically been portrayed using global benchmarks such as the (ISC)2 Women in Cybersecurity Study – which produced a widely quoted figure that around 24% of cybersecurity workers are women.

Yet whether the Australian figure is higher, lower or broadly in line with that figure has never been systematically assessed – and a better understanding of the Australian situation could prove hugely beneficial in further guiding policy. industry and government for gender equality in the critical area of ​​cybersecurity. sector.

“There is no solid measurement of the gender composition of the security industry in Australia, nor a clear picture of the types of jobs women do and the skills they have,” said the Professor Matt Warren, Director of the RMIT University Center for Cyber ​​Security Research. & Innovation (CCSRI), which partnered with AWSN to manage the project.

“This study will aim to give a more robust and definitive estimate of gender diversity within the security workforce.”

Harnessing diversity to fill the void

The survey comes amid a chronic glut of cybersecurity workers in Australia, with industry development body AustCyber’s sector competitiveness plan predicting the local industry of 26,500 workers is to create an additional 7,000 jobs. by 2024.

Diversity has been recognized as essential to this effort, with ACS Australia digital pulse report highlighting the importance of diversity which it says could potentially create 14,000 new IT jobs per year over the next 20 years.

“If we can create workplaces that support a diverse workforce and flexible working arrangements… [and] ensuring that the IT industry welcomes people of all types, we can also do a much better job of retaining current workers and attracting new workers,” said Chris Vein, CEO of ACS.

Despite all efforts to attract women to date, current diversity challenges “suggest that the sector is not operating as optimally as it could,” notes the RMIT-AWSN survey, “given that t is increasingly evident that a more diverse workforce brings greater potential for innovation, strategic intellect and problem-solving ability.

In a market where CIOs are paying a 22% premium to secure “must have” cybersecurity staff – and 65% of CIOs plan to hire cybersecurity staff this year – the industry has adopted a series of initiatives designed to tap into the latent pool of talented women who, according to the figures, have moved away from STEM-related careers in worrying numbers.

Recent initiatives such as the Deloitte-backed Cyber ​​Academy, for example, have dangled salaries of $40,000 for students wishing to pursue a joint degree-work internship program, while Microsoft and AustCyber ​​have launched a new internship program last month that is expected to attract around 200 new workers. cybersecurity industry over the next two years.

Universities and industry development organizations have targeted women with scholarships and start-up funds, while employers are also looking for ways to upskill developers in security, hire neurodiverse workers, and increase the representation of First Nations workers.

A better understanding of women’s representation in security will help identify and remove barriers to increasing women’s participation, noted Dr. Leonora Risse, an RMIT economist and member of the research team.

“While existing research suggests general ways to expand the talent pool of the sector,” she explained, “little attention is paid to gender inequalities and the factors that explain the low representation of women in the workforce. the area.

“The insights generated by the research project will be invaluable in broadening the sector’s talent pool and equipping it for the growing challenges and demands it will face in the future.

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