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Gender is still the biggest challenge facing many women seeking to progress in their cybersecurity careers, according to Sans Institute.

The new findings released by SANS ahead of International Women’s Day on Sunday came from the first ever Women in Cybersecurity Survey, which was compiled from 488 interviews globally.

Some 35% of respondents, who were all chosen from senior or leadership positions in their respective organizations, said that their gender was the number one challenge to career progression.

That’s despite chronic skills shortages in the industry which now exceed four million positions globally, including 561,000 in North America and 291,000 in Europe. The latter figure is an increase of over 100% in just 12 months.

According to (ISC)2, only around a quarter (24%) of the global cybersecurity workforce is female.

Many respondents to the SANS study credited their rise through the ranks as being down to having varied experience (38%) and pursuing certifications (34%), but more (41%) said it was due simply to being in the right place at the right time.

Disappointingly, a quarter of respondents (25%) said they’d never been mentored, and just 7% had been mentored by another woman.

“Women can have a tremendous amount of impact in their organizations regardless of their title,” says SANS analyst and survey author Heather Mahalik. “Your title and time in the field do not define what you know and the impact you can provide to this community. They do not define your impact or even narrow in on your capabilities — your actions do.”

The good news is that women in senior positions are taking proactive steps to ensure the next generation of colleagues are better supported in the workplace than they were. Just a quarter of respondents said they weren’t involved in mentoring, while over half (57%) claimed they mentor both men and women.

Stay up-to-date with the latest information security trends and topics by registering for Infosecurity Magazine’s next Online Summit. Find out more here.

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