Embrace Gender Diversity in Security and Risk Management Roles

Diverse teams provide an immediate and long-lasting solution to the global problem of understaffed positions.

More diverse teams make better decisions and generate more revenue due to broader thinking, a wider set of problem-solving resources, and more varied and well-considered solutions. So it makes sense for a field like security and risk management, where talent is in short supply, to look to the presence and perspectives of women as source of talent to address skills shortages.

A recent Gartner survey with 364 security and risk management executives found that male executives outnumbered female executives by 2.8 to one.

“While this makes for pretty sober reading, the good news is that the general workforce pipeline has a more balanced male-to-female ratio meaning that, over time, it’s likely that there will be more female leaders in the discipline,” says Roberta Witty, research vice president at Gartner. “In fact, by 2020, with business acumen as a key competency, Gartner predicts that 40 percent of executives in security and risk management will be female.”

Not only are women well-suited for security and risk management professions, women in the study see the professions to be an excellent career path.

The Gartner survey set out to test a number of hypotheses about gender diversity in security and risk management in order to help professionals understand how gender differences may play a role in the success of security and risk management staffing.

Manage Risk. Build Trust. Embrace Change.
Gartner Security & Risk Summit 2018
Learn More

Women Are Well-Suited for the Future Jobs of Security and Risk Management

Early exposure to security and risk management disciplines, developing more qualified candidates, and providing professional support are needed for gender parity.

In order to retain women in the security and risk management professions, organizations must address the gender discrimination issue in their hiring and retention practices. The effort must be led at the top of the organization. Implement gender-blind recruiting practices and training to mitigate gender discrimination, and use retention practices that promote women to top leadership and executive positions.

However, there is a striking contrast among females and males on just how prevalent gender discrimination is today – 46 percent of women agree that women have experienced gender discrimination, whereas only 18 percent of men think women have.

Women See the Security and Risk Management Professions to Be an Excellent Career Path

Not only are women well-suited for security and risk management professions, women in the study see the professions to be an excellent career path. However, effort must be taken to retain them; otherwise, women may leave their positions to find a transparent and supportive work environment elsewhere.

Both female and male respondents believe that sponsoring and mentoring high-potential women will improve the recruitment and retention of women in security and risk management. Diversity task forces are extremely important, whereas mandatory diversity training, job tests and grievance systems are not perceived as beneficial for organizational diversity. Providing work-life balance practices such as flexible work hours is a competitive differentiator in the labor market that can improve the retention and recruitment of women.

Women Are Underrepresented in the Technical Security and Risk Management Disciplines

As we previously mentioned, male security and risk management executives almost triple female executives. There is a very large difference in two disciplines: IT compliance management has the highest ratio of men to women with 5.3 men to every woman. Business continuity management (BCM) is next highest with a ratio of 4.6 men to every woman.

Gartner analysts recommend that companies target women while they’re in school to sell them on a career in security and risk management. They will need to coordinate these efforts with school officials.

“Grow the general workforce pipeline for security and risk management by partnering with primary, secondary and higher educational institutions to introduce young women to the security and risk management professions,” Witty says. “Do not focus only on technical educational programs; approach liberal arts and communications academic programs to ensure females understand the value of a security and risk management career choice.”

Gartner clients can learn more about gender diversity in security and risk management in the report “Survey Analysis: Gender Diversity in Security and Risk Management Provides the Talent to Address the Skills Shortage,” byRoberta Witty, et al.

Learn more about security talent for the IoT in the complimentary Gartner Leading the IoT eBook.

Get Smarter

Security Monitoring and Operations Primer for 2017

Security monitoring and operations excellence is a key component of any effective security program. Gartner's 2017 research will guide...

Read Free Research

Equip Your IAM Risk-Based Planning With a Comprehensive Risk Model

Assessment of more than 50 large IAM deployments have shown suboptimal IAM solutions with arbitrary priorities, missing time and budget...

Start Watching

Follow #GartnerSEC

Learn more at the global Gartner Security & Risk Management Summits.

Explore Gartner Events