A new survey has found that just 11 percent of the global information security workforce are women - who still earn less than men on average - despite double-digit annual increases of people in the profession.
This is even lower than the figure for the wider IT industry. At present, only 17 percent of IT professionals are women, and only 15 percent of students on IT-related degrees in the UK are female, according to sector skills council eskills UK.
The shortage of women and lack of diversity in the infosecurity space is preventing the industry from being as effective as it could be in its battle against cyber threats, said Michael Suby, vice president of research at Frost & Sullivan and author of the 'Agents of Change: Women in the Information Security Profession' report, which was commissioned by (ISC)2 and Symantec.
Security needs diverse backgrounds
"The report data indicates that the perspectives of women offer viewpoints needed to elevate the security industry to the next level," said Suby, who added that combatting the growing number of sophisticated cyber threats requires a "community approach to training" and hiring security professionals from a variety of backgrounds.
Women, as a group, have a more diverse academic background than men, and were more likely to have degrees with an emphasis on social sciences and business, than engineering and computer sciences, according to the survey.
Furthermore, while men believe that technical skills should be a priority skill for successful information security professionals, women believe that a wide variety of skills is more important, such as communication skills, awareness and understanding of the latest security threats, leadership skills, security policy formulation and application and a broad understanding of the security field.
Gender pay gap persists
Respondents to the survey were divided into job title categories of leaders and doers. Leaders (3,466 respondents) included executives, managers and strategic advisors, while doers (2,348) included security analysts and compliance auditors.
The survey found that more women leaders (91 percent) held a bachelors, masters or doctoral degree, than men leaders (89 percent).
Despite the difference in academic qualifications, women earned a lower average annual salary compared with men. In the leaders and doers categories, the average annual salary for women was $109,800 (£68,400) and $91,000 (£56,700), respectively. For men, it is $111,100 (£69,200) and $93,500 (£58,200).
Although there were more women (34 percent) who were in consultant and advisor job titles than men (26 percent) in the leaders category, more than twice as many men as women were network security or software architects, however.
Security analyst skills gap
(ISC)2 believes that women have an opportunity to increase their presence by filling a skills gap for security analysts, which was a job title identified as the most in demand position in the information security industry in (ISC)2's 2013 Global Information Security Workforce Study.
It came to this conclusion because the 'Agent of change' survey found that in the doers category, 38 percent of women were security analysts, compared with 27 percent of men.
(ISC)2 offers annual scholarships to female students aspiring to obtain information security careers, and runs the Safe and Secure Online programme, where (ISC)2-certified experts go into schools to introduce children to a career in cyber security. It also offers women in security mentoring and awareness programmes.