How can high schools better encourage girls to pursue tech fields like cybersecurity?
- There are currently more than a quarter of a million unfilled jobs in cybersecurity, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts the need will grow 28% by 2026, The Hechinger Report notes; however, only 11% of cybersecurity professionals are women.
- Researchers note that most high school networking classes include few girls, but some states, like New Jersey, are moving toward graduation requirements that include a class in computer science, a move that will introduce more girls to careers in technology.
- Organizers of groups such as Girls Go Cyberstart are encouraging schools to invite more female students to compete so that girls will have more exposure to the field.
Cybersecurity is lucrative career, boasting an average salary of $96,000, and yet few women pursue the field. The reasons for this are hard to pin down, but researchers point to a variety of causes. Some say parents and society encourage boys to pursue such careers more often than girls, while others point to the fact that boys are more likely to play video games, an activity that encourages more interest in tech fields.
However, a recent report by Microsoft highlighted in Forbes magazine sheds new light on the reasons. The report revealed that 72% of girls and young women say that it is important for them to have a job that directly helps the world, and over 90% describe themselves as creative. “While girls and young women have ambitions to embrace careers that are creative and help the world, they haven't been presented with examples that help to contextualize STEM opportunities within their interests and experiences,” the article states.
Schools can encourage more girls to pursue these tech careers by helping them make these connections. Bringing in women speakers in the field may help them view technology in a more creative light and help them see fields like cybersecurity as beneficial to the world. Involving girls in organizations like Girls Go Cyberstart, Girls Who Code, Code.org and uscyberpatriot.org can also encourage their interests. Schools also need to strengthen their computer education programs for all students as more possibilities lie ahead in these fields.
- The Hechinger Report Jobs in cybersecurity are exploding: Why are women locked out?