DeVry Insights: Breaking the Glass Cyber Ceiling - How Companies Can Support Women and Disabled Workers in Cybersecurity

May 20, 2024 – Cybersecurity has long suffered from a lack of diversity, with women and disabled individuals particularly underrepresented in the field. According to a report released by the White House, there is a lack of diversity in the cybersecurity industry with women in particular making up only 26% of the cyber workforce. This lack of diversity stems in part from exclusionary practices by leadership and direct managers that make it difficult for women and disabled professionals to enter and advance in the industry.


We sat down with DeVry University's vice president of public workforce solutions Scarlett Howery to share how companies and leaders can support these workers.


Oftentimes, women and workers with disabilities face roadblocks and are often passed over for promotions. What challenges do both groups face in career advancement?

Stereotypes related to gender norms and women’s abilities in technical fields, create barriers when breaking into the tech field and ultimately advancing into leader roles. The same misconceptions exist for workers with disabilities because of the lack of representation. It is a vicious cycle that creates a significant challenge to stay motivated in the tech field when they do not see others like themselves in cybersecurity roles.


A survey sponsored by DeVry University, found women face persistent barriers to upskilling.  According to the findings, gender is a significant differentiator impacting access to upskilling, with 73% of men having access compared to only 56% of women. Only one in four women believe employers are doing what is necessary to upskill and prepare employees for the future workplace. As a result, women are twice as likely to leave their jobs as men, with a lack of time and family obligations considered the biggest obstacles to pursuing upskilling. 


Although many organizations offer tuition benefits to their employees, without support from their managers to understand what skills are needed for the roles and flexibility to have time to complete upskilling programs, fewer women use those resources.


What can women and workers with disabilities, who are being impacted and excluded, do?

According to Deloitte Insights, when the culture differs from an employee’s expectations, the impact can be significant—almost a third of new workers leave their jobs within the first 90 days of being hired, with unmet expectations from recruitment and culture being top factors. Additionally, 73% of people have left a job to poor cultural fit—and the “fuzziness” of defining and driving culture for organizational leaders.


With that in mind, workers should choose companies that offer support and resources such as training programs, mentorship and tuition benefits, to name a few. They should ensure they know what skills are needed to move into advanced positions by asking their manager and developing an upskilling plan. Moreover, they need to seek out mentors who can provide them with guidance to gain the skills and build a professional network as they advance in their careers.


How can organizations and leaders build a more inclusive workplace?

With such a significant skills gap in cybersecurity, it is more important than ever for companies to provide support and resources to their workers to help bridge the gap. Organizations can make progress by focusing on the following four areas:


Retention Rates: Monitor retention rates of underrepresented groups within the cybersecurity workforce to assess if they are leaving at disproportionate rates compared to their counterparts.


Promotion Rates: Analyze promotion rates to ensure equitable opportunities for advancement across all demographic groups.


Training and Development: Measure participation rates for training programs to ensure all employees have sufficient access.


Representation in Leadership: Evaluate representation of underrepresented groups in leadership positions within the cybersecurity department and the organization.


By regularly monitoring and analyzing these metrics, organizations can gain insights into their progress in creating a more inclusive cybersecurity workplace and identify areas for improvement.


CyberSeek reports that there are more than 448,000 open positions in the US alone. To access this vital talent pool, organizations must take action to break down the gender and disability gap. With inclusive leadership and supportive policies, the cybersecurity field can become a place where all talent thrives.

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About DeVry University 

DeVry University strives to close society’s opportunity gap and address emerging talent needs by preparing learners to thrive in careers shaped by continuous technological change. Founded in 1931, the university offers undergraduate and graduate programs onsite and online in Business, Healthcare and Technology. DeVry University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission (HLC, The university’s Keller Graduate School of Management is included in this accreditation. To learn more, visit