As we write this article, there are over one million workers in cybersecurity in the US. But what’s more interesting is that the number of job listings for the past few months for cybersecurity-related positions keeps on growing. In fact, according to Cyber Seek there are 600,000 openings in our country.
In other words, the talent gap keeps on getting bigger. And while there might be different reasons behind this, the lack of diversity is one of the most important ones.
A report published by The Aspen Institute estimates that only 4% of the cybersecurity workers self-identify as Hispanic, while 9% as Black, and 24% as women. But what makes things worse, and proves that this might be the key to closing the gap, is that African-Americans represent 13% of the US population and Hispanics 19%.
So how come such little percentages are part of a field that offers so many benefits to its workers? On one hand, the demographics in cybersecurity are mainly represented by white males, and on the other, there is a lack of funding options available so underserved minorities can get the right training.
Cybersecurity is aching for a more inclusive workforce, but what can we do?
The first thing is for cybersecurity training programs to acknowledge the role they play in this situation and create different ways to encourage a more diverse population to enroll with them and create high-wage career opportunities for underrepresented communities.
At CyberWarrior Foundation we have a partnership with the Department of Homeland Security and CISA to help candidates from the Northeast and Southeast regions of the US with a partial tuition grant that will allow them to kickstart their career.
Mentorship programs should be included in academies, where qualified professionals guide students and explain what it’s like to work in cybersecurity. This allows them to better grasp the abilities they need to develop, the differences between each career route, and which is the best fit for them. This program might potentially evolve into an apprenticeship option, allowing each student to put their knowledge into practice while increasing their chances of landing a full-time employment.
But not all the responsibilities rely on academies and training institutions. Organizations of all sizes have played a part as well.
They need to find ways to increase, and most important, retain diverse talent. And by this we don’t mean adding one or two Hispanics or African-Americans to their staff, but rather create an environment that makes them feel welcomed. For example, respecting traditions and holidays for each culture, hosting diversity training, and revising their policies to make sure they offer equal growth chances for everyone.
That’s why we believe it’s very important that cybersecurity leaders start focusing more on having an inclusive workforce when hiring talent for their organizations. In fact, they should choose their employees based on their ability to do a job, not on the certifications they’ve earned, and offer them the training needed so they can keep on specializing.
Far beyond helping their business be recognized as one that promotes diversity, it will boost their team with more perspectives about an issue, different approaches when crafting a solution, and even more experiences and ideas that will help them stay ahead of cyber-threats.
What other ideas do you have? Please comment and share so we can all help make this a world understands that our differences only make us stronger.