The pandemic has aggravated the disproportional stress experienced by women in IT, and this will impact the already stretched skills scene in ITSec. From the resources point of view, the added pressure during the pandemic has led to many women feeling burnt out and ready to leave the workforce, possibly disrupting the entire IT ecosystem.
Enterprises have put enormous pressure on IT teams in order to survive and keep their operations afloat. As cyber security is one the most impacted areas during the new remote working paradigm, the pressure on ITSec professionals has gone by substantially. However, surveys have shown that the women in IT have been stretched more while adjusting to the life and work environment under COVID-19.
According to a survey conducted by TrustRadius, over 57% of women reported that they feel burnt out at work in 2021 due to the pandemic compared to 36% of men. An imbalance in the added responsibilities owing to the pandemic, both at home and the workplace, has been at the core of all this.
Women leaving the IT industry
As per McKinsey’s 2020 ‘Women in the Workplace’ study, one in four women are downshifting their career or deciding to leave the workforce due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Women have had to take tremendous added effort to reach where they have over the last two or three years- even after decades of struggle by their predecessors. Finally IT Security as a profession became open for women skilled resources, but the current pressure situation can set women back by nearly a decade in the workforce. This could end up leaving only a small proportion of women in leadership positions or on the leadership track- as Security managers of CISOs, significantly hampering gender diversity in IT.
It’s certainly time for the industry, as a whole, to seriously engage in change management and recognize that a few feel good initiatives to support work-life balance for women ITSec professionals will not be enough. They need to take a more serious view of the women employees’ demands from personal life, their ability to take time off beyond just paternity and maternity leave, and must create paths for upward mobility in the organization.
Feeling the need to prove themselves
As gender imbalance is still an issue in the enterprise world, women already feel that they need to take on more responsibilities and contribute more to be considered equal in the workplace. In fact, the survey by TrustRadius found that 78% of women feel they should work harder than their coworkers to prove their worth. This is specially so in the field of IT security, given the increased responsibility on ITSec teams to keep their organisations safe during this high risk time. These high expectations from the industry, and the need to push harder to get their voices heard, can worsen the situation for women. Therefore, IT leaders must adjust the performance review standards to account for the additional stress brought on by the pandemic. This can help female employees feel less stressed and build a more inclusive atmosphere that will add value to ITSec teams in organisations today.
Not having a work-life balance
As it’s becoming increasingly harder for women to strike a work-life balance as they juggle responsibilities at work and at home, IT leaders should provide for flexible working hours, especially for women employees with children to look after. They should set the tone for work-life balance, demonstrating the company’s dedication to the mental and physical well-being of its employees.
IT leaders should engage with their female employees on a regular basis to guarantee that they don’t burn out. If employees cannot perform well, they should ease up the responsibilities and strive to make things easier for them. Additionally, they can offer better access to affordable childcare options, more support for single mothers and paid maternity leave for longer periods of time. IT leaders can lower the likelihood of burnout and inspire loyalty, which can enhance retention, by assisting women employees feel supported and heard.
Between February 2020 and February 2021, 2.3 million women quit the labor force in the United States, lowering women’s labor participation to its lowest level since 1988. However, many women in cybersecurity, have had great success in their careers in the last year. The society places great expectations on women as home makers and mothers, so this has been an uphill journey for all.
These contrasting narratives convey an important message about how opportunities in cybersecurity could potentially help women regain significant economic ground while also assisting global economic recovery. In fact, as per Tessian’s ‘Opportunity in Cybersecurity report 2020’, it’s been projected that if the proportion of women working in cybersecurity matched that of men, the US economy would gain US$30.4 billion.
The IT sector has a critical role to play in narrowing the gender gap in ITSec and cybersecurity and assisting more women in taking advantage of these possibilities.
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