Examining Barriers to Entry: Disparate Gender Representation in Cybersecurity Within Sub-Saharan Africa


  • Danielle Botha-Badenhorst CSIR
  • Namosha Veerasamy




Women in STEM, cybersecurity, Representation, Sub-Saharan Africa, gender equality


Globally, women are underrepresented in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). In Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), this underrepresentation is even more prevalent, as fewer women pursue STEM careers in SSA when compared to the global norm. Cybersecurity is a critical subsection of STEM; one that is widely accepted as a field with enormous growth potential, yet only a small proportion of these jobs belong to women. Despite attempts to narrow the gender gap in cybersecurity, persistent factors still contribute to this disparity. Within this field, developing countries struggle with the same issues that impact their more developed counterparts. Issues that impact both SSA and the global participation of women in cyber-security include lacking representation and awareness as well as retention problems. Further, issues such as harassment, gender bias and the idea that cybersecurity is a “man’s world” are also contributing factors. A slew of other factors is also at play in SSA; this includes issues of low school attendance by girls, restricted educational opportunities, and other systemic challenges. Girls and women are less likely to complete lower and secondary education, which has a ripple effect – fewer women reach higher education in SSA when compared to global trends. Generally, higher or tertiary education is necessary to join the cybersecurity workforce. Research exploring the challenges women in SSA face when trying to enter the cybersecurity field is limited. This paper presents an overview of the most persistent challenges faced in SSA and globally. It highlights the current skill shortage in the cybersecurity field that is exasperated by global challenges, including issues unique to the region. Educational pathways available to girls and women are explored, as well as the issues leading to widespread skill shortages within SSA. Programs striving to increase the participation of women in cybersecurity are discussed. Lastly, some suggestions to remediate this pervasive issue are also provided.