The Australian arm of Slovakian security vendor ESET has launched its annual Women in Cybersecurity Scholarship Program, in an attempt to ameliorate gender inequality in the sector.
With only 15 per cent of women comprising the general cyber security workforce, Australia even lags behind the dismal global rate of 24 per cent, according to Aspen Research.
The Australian Cyber Security Growth Network claims that the Australian tech sector will need over 16,000 skilled workers by 2026 with government and the private sector aligning to redress the imbalance.  
In its second year and part of a global initiative, ESET Australia will award $5,000 to a women who is currently enrolled in a graduate or undergraduate program, majoring in a STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) field.
The recruitment of women to cybersecurity is critical for the Australian economy, with forecasts from the Australian Computer Society revealing that increasing gender diversity in the tech workforce could amplify Australia’s economy by over $11 billion over the next two decades and create almost 5,000 full-time-equivalent jobs.
"Women are still very much underrepresented in the cybersecurity industry," ESET Asia Pacific/Japan president Parvinder Walia said.
"I believe that with the ESET Women in Cybersecurity Scholarship, we can break down some barriers of entry in order to support the next generation of female cybersecurity experts,” Walia said.
He added that women were an unrealised resource in this high demand sector, “eradicating cybercrime needs a global army of passionate cybersecurity evangelists with different perspectives, and the increase of women coming into this robust workforce adds to the strength and diversity of expertise.”
“We are embarking on a new era of cybersecurity capability in this country, and aiming to be the most cyber-secure country by 2030," Minister for Home Affairs and Cyber Security, Clare O’Neil, said in support of the program.
"Our cybersecurity workforce has never been more important."
"The percentage of women in cybersecurity is growing, and initiatives such as ESET’s scholarships compliment the work the Government is doing to support that influx of women."
"Women rising through ranks in cybersecurity will encourage the younger generation into STEM related studies, and into technical roles,” O'Neil added.
Applications are now open, and the winner will be announced on International Women’s Day, at Canberra House by the Minister, 8th March 2023," O'Neil said. 
According to RMIT Economist and Centre for Cyber Security Research and Innovation (CCSRI) researcher, Dr Leonora Risse, the cyber security industry is one of the fastest-growing occupations in Australia.
The 2021 Census revealed there are around 9000 workers in occupations that are specifically related to cyber security, including Cyber Security Analysts, Cyber Security Advice and Assessment Specialists, and Cyber Governance Risk and Compliance.
RMIT research notes that women currently make up around 17 per cent of these cyber security specific occupation. “It’s likely we’ll see these occupations grow significantly in future years.
AustCyber estimated that Australia would require an additional 7000 practitioners in the cyber security sector by 2024.
"The fact that the workforce has already exceeded this forecast suggests it has expanded more quickly than predicted,” Risse said.
“Gender equality in the sector is an important ingredient for equipping the sector for future challenges, as greater diversity amplifies the sector’s innovation potential, problem-solving capacity, and capacity to response to real world challenges," Risse added.