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Gender, Diversity Gaps Plague Cybersecurity Industry

Persistent gender and diversity gaps and challenges with work-life balance among cybersecurity professionals are key findings in a new report by security provider Exabeam.

The security information and event management (SIEM) Exabeam’s 2019 Cybersecurity Professionals Salary, Skills and Stress Survey, which was completed last month, is based on interviews with 479 cybersecurity professionals. The study’s goal was to gain insight on trends in the salaries of security professionals, education levels, job satisfaction and attitudes toward innovative and emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning.

Here are some key findings:

On diversity.
Among the security analysts surveyed in the United States, UK, Canada, India, Australia and the Netherlands, overall, 91 percent of respondents of the survey were male – up from 90 percent in 2018 – representing a persistent gender disparity in cybersecurity.

Further, a wide racial disparity was uncovered, with African-Americans represented by less than 3 percent of respondents to the survey. Of the total number of respondents, the majority, or 65 percent, identified as Caucasian. People of Asian descent made up just 13 percent of respondents, while even fewer (9 percent) were Latino/Hispanic.

“The lack of diversity in this survey is a microcosm of the wider problem plaguing the cybersecurity industry,” said Trevor Daughney, Exabeam product marketing vice president. “When we consider the continuous threats and external adversaries that cyber professionals face, we understand that fighting them often requires a multidisciplinary approach. Building a diverse team of people creates a more holistic view of the problem and delivers a range of valuable problem-solving skills.”

On job security & satisfaction.

  • 41% have been in the industry for 10 years or more.
  • 71% are satisfied or very satisfied with their jobs and responsibilities, which is a downturn from 2018, when 83 percent of respondents reported their satisfaction.
  • 76% feel secure or very secure in their current role.
  • 78% of participants would recommend a career in cybersecurity.

On salaries.

  • Median salaries averaged between $75,000-$100,000.
  • 53% were satisfied with their salary, an increase from 35 percent last year. Median salaries were unchanged from 2018.
  • 58 percent reported that a challenging work environment was the most rewarding aspect of their job, while lack of advancement opportunities was the least rewarding.

On skills shortage.

  • 62% said their jobs are stressful or very stressful
  • 44% don’t feel they are achieving a work-life balance.
  • 40% were actively looking for a new job
  • 51% said their reasons for doing so were poor compensation and unsupportive senior leadership.

“One obvious strength of the security space is the plentiful opportunities to take risks and innovate,” Daughney said. “However, if employees are stressed, don’t feel supported by executive leadership, or don’t enjoy balance in their lives, it’s difficult to achieve their full potential. Therefore, companies must focus on inclusion and building productive environments where teams can deliver exceptional work,” he said.

On tools.

  • Regarding the tools SOC professionals use regularly, SIEM and firewalls were cited as the most common technologies used by Security Operations Center (SOC) pros.
  • Other tools include WHOIS, NSLOOKUP, email security, intrusion prevention systems and +NGF.
  • 16% are using automation. 41% admit to having no plans to use automation, despite 60 percent disagreeing that automation was a threat to their jobs and 80 percent saying that automation makes their jobs easier and improves security.
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