Last year, the 2017 Global Information Security Workforce Study (Centre for Cyber safety and Education, 2017) conducted a survey among 4,001 young people from the UK, USA, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Israel and the Netherlands. Among the results of that study, a shortage of 1.8 million information security workers was predicted for 2022. The reasons: lack of qualified staff and clear information on professional information security profiles. On the other hand, almost 90% of the global workforce is males. According to the results of the above-mentioned study, one of the reasons why there is a lack of women in information security careers is that there are no female cybersecurity role models that girls can follow. Likewise, the cybersecurity stereotype does not reflect what they would like to be in the future. In fact, according to Janice Richardson, Senior Advisor at European Schoolnet: “Most young people (69%) have never met anyone working in cybersecurity and even fewer (11%) have met a woman working in the sector. However, when they do, their opinion changes, and 63% of young women have a more positive view of cybersecurity after meeting someone who works in the sector”. The stereotype of the lone hacker on his computer is too often used in the media to represent the cybersecurity industry. Besides not being real, there are a wide variety of professional profiles in the sector – from security architects building a company’s security system, Digital Forensics Analysis investigators analysing data and assessing their relevance to a case under investigation, or Chief Security Officers (CISO) in charge of aligning security with business objectives.
The IT security sector is characterised by the need for continuous innovation that requires creativity, flexibility and innovative thinking, which can be stimulated by diversity (Mannix and Neale, 2005). The low proportion of women in the field represents a lost opportunity for the industry. For this reason, in recent years the sector has been calling on women working in cybersecurity to step forward by providing more realistic role models for girls.
According to Janice Richardson, “schools and families have the key. Since career choices are contextual and cultural, efforts to influence them should be made at an early age. Any action taken only by employers and universities will have minimal impact, according to Kaspersky Lab’s 2017 annual report. Schools have an important role to play in making cybersecurity an attractive career. Families also play an important role: they need to be informed not only about cybersecurity professions, but also about the shortage of talent in a field that is expected to increase, and about competitive salaries in the area.
The aim of this project is to address the gender gap facing the computer security industry by partnering with private sector companies and academic institutions and working with middle, high and vocational schools to promote cybersecurity careers. Better information about cybersecurity careers could positively impact more young people choosing this path, and female role models can motivate girls in cybersecurity education through: (1) quality cybersecurity content for schools according to the European Framework of Digital Competences for Citizens; (2) training teachers in ICT security and providing schools and families with useful information on the IT security industry so that they can inform students; (3) using an innovative IT environment combining methods of learning virtual games and problems based on positive female roles in IT security careers; (4) disseminating ICT careers in general, and cybersecurity in particular among teenage girls at the age of choosing their professional future, as well as making boys aware of women’s contributions to teams.
The primary target group of the project are secondary school and formal vocational training students in general, and girls in particular. Secondly, teachers and families will be impacted. The main results of the project are as follows:
1. EDUCATIONAL PLATFORM ON CYBERSECURITY AND THE PROFESSION, including open educational resources (OER) for training and awareness-raising for students and teachers, as well as an awareness-raising strategy and resources for families.
2. IMMERSIVE EDUCATIONAL VIDEO GAME USING REAL-LIFE CONTEXT SCENARIOS, including the development of multilanguage video games with virtual/enhanced reality and test pilots in secondary schools in Spain, Ireland, Bulgaria and Hungary.
3. A BOOK FOR RAISING AWARENESS OF GENDER EQUALITY IN ICT, including the design and development of an e-book on gender equality in ICT.