Why financial institutions need more women in Cybersecurity roles

Coding and Cybersecurity Analytics, Women in Cybersecurity


Cheryl Chiodi from Akamai will delve into the critical intersection of cybersecurity and the financial services industry, highlighting the growing need for greater gender diversity within the sector. She will underscore the escalating threats faced by financial institutions in the digital age and explore the reasons behind the call for increased representation of women in cybersecurity roles.

Cheryl Chiodi, Industry Strategy Manager for Financial Services at Akamai, highlights the growing need for greater gender diversity within the sector.

Amidst the era of technological advancement, the financial services industry emerges as a beacon of innovation and opportunity. As digital transformation continues to reshape the way financial institutions operate, the critical role of cybersecurity becomes ever more apparent. This pivotal moment is marked not just by the necessity of ensuring equal representation and opportunities for all genders, but by the strategic imperative to harness the unique perspectives, skills, and talents that women bring to the forefront of cybersecurity. Gender diversity is not a checkbox; it signifies a strategic shift that will bring onboard more women to protect us from cyber-attacks.

How gender diversity can help

A 2022 Deloitte report found that women in the financial services industry held 21% of board seats, 19% of C-suite roles, and 5% of CEO positions in 2021. Within the financial services sector, as within many other tech-driven industries, a noticeable gender disparity persists, especially in technical roles. The shortage of women in critical cybersecurity positions is a missed opportunity for innovation and resilience.

Diverse teams, informed by distinct perspectives and problem-solving approaches, often yield more comprehensive solutions. A 2020 McKinsey report found that the greater the representation, the higher the likelihood of outperformance. Organisations with more than 30% women executives were more likely to outperform those with fewer women executives, or none at all. In cybersecurity, where adaptability and creativity are paramount, gender diversity can be a game changer. Inclusivity fosters strong communication skills, attention to detail, and holistic problem-solving approaches to the table. These attributes can be particularly effective in identifying and addressing emerging threats.

Moreover, diverse teams can better understand the diverse user base that financial institutions serve. Consulting firm Oliver Wyman found that 40% of the global wealth was held by women in 2020. As customers come from various backgrounds and demographics, having a team that reflects this diversity can lead to more user-friendly and secure systems.

Getting at the root of the lack of representation in cybersecurity and financial services

The UK Government released its review of the cybersecurity skills in the labour market and found that women currently represent only 17% of the cyber sector workforce, down from 22% in 2022. Unpacking this gender gap in cybersecurity unveils a complex web of contributing factors, including biases and stereotypes that have contributed to its persistence. Unconscious biases, those social stereotypes about certain groups of people that we form outside our own conscious awareness, can affect hiring decisions, leading to a disproportionate number of men in technical roles. The lack of visible role models can discourage women from pursuing careers in cybersecurity, as they may not see people who look like them succeeding in the field.

However, initiatives aimed at bridging this divide are gaining traction. Organisations like Women in CyberSecurity and Girls Who Code are actively working to change perceptions and promote cybersecurity as an attractive career choice for women. Their effort to shift the perspectives on this sector is critical to encourage more young women to consider and pursue careers in the industry.

Additionally, mentorship programmes have emerged as a cornerstone of fostering diversity in cybersecurity. Organisations like Women4Cyber encourage successful women in the field to step up to mentor the next generation, providing guidance, support, and valuable insights into navigating this historically male-dominated industry. Finally, trade bodies such as FS-ISAC, the industry consortium working to ensure the resilience and continuity of the global financial services industry, lead initiatives to address the lack of diversity of the cybersecurity talent pool in the financial services industry, with scholarships providing both financial support and mentorship to rising young women pursuing cybersecurity careers in financial services.

Looking to the future

Greater gender diversity is not about levelling the playing field – it’s about recognising that in an ever-evolving digital landscape, innovation, adaptability, and resilience are paramount. The financial services sector, as the guardian of economic stability, holds a critical role in shaping the future. By tapping into the diverse talents and perspectives of women, the industry can better fortify its digital defences and lead the charge toward a safer digital landscape for all.


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