Last week, KPMG released its research report Ending workforce discrimination against women. The report looks at the ways in which females are discriminated against in the Australian workplace, the economic costs of that discrimination, and what can be done to improve the situation. The report suggests a number of barriers to women joining or re-joining the workforce. These barriers include rising child care costs that mean working more than 3 days each week isn’t worth the income. And superannuation laws that don’t guarantee payment to low income earners. The good news is that if we can boost the number of women in the workforce in general, the whole economy will benefit and our living standards will rise as a consequence. Win.
In the cyber security industry, just 11% are women, partly due to the reasons reflected in the report (and you can find more reasons that women don’t stay in cyber here). So, what can the cyber industry offer that might help address some of the concerns raised by KPMG?
1. Some great Australian organisations are currently trialling job share in senior cyber roles. Mums (and dads) wanting the best of both worlds can share roles in cyber in many domains including application security, awareness and operations (and I’m sure there are more). Job sharing, if done with a strong commitment to leaving the workplace behind on the days you are not scheduled to work, can be extremely rewarding and a great option for those with little kids not yet at school. I’m not suggesting that we should sit and accept that rising childcare fees don’t make the 4th and 5th day of work worth turning up for. But in the current environment, job sharing in cyber is a great way to gain experience, get back into the workforce and reduce lost income in childcare fees.
2. KPMG tells us that women’s super payouts are currently 50% less than men’s. And while any job can add to your super, jobs in cyber have good (and rising) salaries due to the demand for great talent. Picking up a job (even if its part time) in cyber will certainly feather your super nest.
3. One of the four areas women experience discrimination according to the report is participation on company boards and in executive management positions. With increasing board interest in cyber security, women with experience in cyber security who are also equipped to serve on boards (while I admit are hard to find) make great company directors and members of senior leadership teams. Those women working in cyber who are aspiring to senior or board positions , in job-share or otherwise, need the support of their peers, mentors and bosses to become great candidates for promotion. We need to coach and nurture them, expose them to opportunities to understand other parts of an organisation and consider courses such as those offered by the Australian institute of Company Directors.
With the above in mind, how might your organisation encourage cyber security staff to stay in the industry, or return to it, by reducing workplace barriers?