Throughout the pandemic we have read countless articles on the impact COVID-19 has had on the careers of women within the cybersecurity field. Many articles state the pandemic has been detrimental to women’s careers, but various others state it has been extremely beneficial. It poses the question, “what is the true impact?.”
US vs UK – Women are more likely to be made redundant than men during the pandemic
US Cybersecurity professionals conducted a survey which revealed that women within tech field are 1.6x likely to be laid off or furloughed, further research found that 8% of female respondents had lost their jobs which is contrasting to the 5% of male respondents. This was consistent with results of a much larger survey of the general US population conducted by Langer Research, which found that 37% of women vs. 28% of men across industries have been laid-off due to coronavirus. TrustRadius speculates that more women have been let go because, according to the Harvard Business Review, they generally have less seniority than men.
In the UK this is almost the polar opposite, men are at a higher unemployment rate than women, January 2021 recorded 5.2% unemployed men and 4.7% unemployed women. The latest data from BCS, the Chartered Institute for IT, indicates that in contrast with other industries, the number of women employed in the UK tech sector has risen slightly over the past year.
While across the wider economy, female workers are more likely to have been furloughed or made redundant than their male counterparts and are also having a tougher time getting hired, the percentage of women in the tech sector rose to 20% last year, from 17% in 2019.
Women generally bear a greater childcare burden than men.
It has been reported that women in tech were 1.5x more likely to feel “burdened” by having to care for children, the vast majority of whom have been home from school for months due to coronavirus quarantine. 72% of women vs. 53% of men surveyed said they are currently struggling with childcare. Nearly 60% of the female tech workers responded that they had seen their familial responsibilities increase as a result of COVID-19. Working mothers dedicated an average of 12 additional hours per week on providing their children with schooling and/or nursing care, while caregiving in a more general sense jumped from 11 hours per week in 2019 to 18 during lockdowns.
Women feel larger pressure to be productive.
Women in the industry also are more likely than men in the industry to feel an enhanced strain to be productive. Cybersecurity professionals TrustRadius conducted a survey and found that 40% of the female respondents said they feel more pressure, compared to only 31% of male respondents.
Women tend to be more concerned about the impact of COVID-19 on people of colour.
US News reports have revealed that COVID-19 is having a damaging impact on many black communities, with higher rates of infection and death, emphasizing levels of racial and economic disparity in the US. Cybersecurity professionals survey revealed that women are 15% more likely than men to be concerned about the impact of the pandemic on people of colour. 70% of the women of colour in tech surveyed said they were concerned about this issue, compared to 51% of white women.
54% of the 203 IT professionals questioned said their household chores and caring activities had increased either “more” or “much more” than for their male partners, while only 9% indicated that their partners had disproportionately carried the impact. As a result respondents spent 14 hours a week on household chores during lockdown, which has nearly doubled from their 8 hours a week on household chores in 2019.
The amount of time women in tech spent on unpaid tasks in 2019 amounted to an average of 41 hours per month, the equivalent of an average of €5,899 per year in unpaid work. In contrast, levels of unpaid work more than doubled to 92 hours per month in April and May 2020, the equivalent of €13,266 per year on average.
Lack of assistance
56% of those surveyed said they had benefited from less leisure time during the pandemic than in the previous year, compared with 31% who said they had enjoyed more. This scenario has undoubtedly taken its toll.
Despite these negative reports, 49% of women working in cybersecurity say that the Covid-19 pandemic has affected their career in a positive way, and 9% of female cybersecurity professionals saying that the pandemic negatively impacted their career. This is according to a new global report from cybersecurity professionals.
Cybersecurity jobs appear to have withstood throughout Covid-19, 94% of women in cybersecurity have been able to recruit new staff members to help support their team in 2020 alongside this, 89% of women working in the industry reported feeling secure in their jobs.
Despite the industry offering promising opportunities, there is still plenty of work to be done to encourage younger women to consider a career in cybersecurity. Included in the report created by cybersecurity professionals, they surveyed university graduates aged 18-25 years old and found that 42% men in this age group were more likely to consider a job in cybersecurity versus 26% of women. Intriguingly, 87% of younger women felt that the tech/cybersecurity industry is “important” whilst 73% said it was “interesting”.
More awareness in schools, colleges and other educational based institutions is critical along with within businesses, can benefit in establishing a more diverse talent pool for the future through initiatives like hiring more diverse candidates at junior levels and evolving them into senior roles, and generating platforms for role models to share their stories.
Despite the mixed reports and articles on the impact of COVID-19 on women’s careers, it is worth noting that any inequality within the industry whether a large percentage or a small percentage is still significant and should be something that does not exist at all. Cybersecurity is an industry to build a thriving career, even throughout a global pandemic. The younger generation acknowledges that it is essential, it is important to show more women and girls how they can delve into the opportunities and prospects available.