A recent Frost & Sullivan survey of more than 19,000 information security professionals from 170 countries found that women comprise only 11 percent of the information security workforce -- and that number has remained steady since 2013.

"With a projected workforce gap of 1.8 million cyber security professionals by 2022, the problem of underrepresentation and underutilization of women needs to be solved to shrink this gap," the 2017 Women in Cybersecurity [PDF] report states.

The report, sponsored by the Center for Cyber Security Safety and Education and the Executive Women's Forum on Information Security, Risk Management & Privacy, also found that women in information security have higher levels of education than men -- 51 percent hold a master's degree or higher, compared to 45 percent of men.

Still, women in the information security earn a lower annual salary than their male counterparts, and fewer women than men hold positions of authority (i.e. director level or above) -- men are four times more likely than women to hold C- and executive-level positions, and nine times more likely to hold managerial positions.

Fifty-one percent of women in the cyber security industry in North American and Latin America have experienced some form of discrimination, compared to just 15 percent of men.

"With increasingly sophisticated threats and the demand for security talent soaring, the cyber security field is one that absolutely cannot afford to neglect the population of women and the many talents they offer," IBM global chief information security officer Shamla Naidoo said in a statement. "The security industry needs the best and brightest to remain ahead in the field against cybercrime, and creating a workforce with a diversity of thought, gender and backgrounds is essential to this goal."

To that end, the trade association CompTIA recently announced a $125,000 donation to TechGirlz, which will enable it to expand its efforts in Chicago to provide middle school girls with access to hands-on workshops and a summer camp aimed at inspiring a love of technology.

"Our research shows that having a personal relationship with someone in technology is a leading factor in teens choosing a tech career," CompTIA executive vice president Charles Eaton said in a statement. "TechGirlz is a perfect partner for us to get our members working with middle school girls on interactive tech projects."

Separately, a FireMon survey of 350 IT security professionals at the recent RSA Conference found that 93 percent of respondents place more importance on experience than qualifications when it comes to hiring, and 73 percent said it doesn't matter whether IT staff are college graduates.

"Combatting the skills gap does not lie solely with more people getting degrees and certifications," FireMon vice president of engineering Jeremy Martin said in a statement. "Experience has been shown to be much more important, which could be good news for security-minded folks who learn by experimenting with code and tearing apart systems."

"That is not to diminish those with qualifications, but instead to encourage those with real-world experience to apply for the IT security jobs they think they might not otherwise get," Martin added.

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