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3 Surprising Ways to Change the Narrative for Diversity and Inclusion in Cyber

The demand for cybersecurity workers in all roles will be significant throughout the next several decades. However, the industry has long grappled with a lack of diversity and inclusion which can have a number of adverse effects. A diverse and inclusive team helps organizations better identify risks and vulnerabilities, learn from past security mistakes, and develop more effective protocols moving forward. Yet, women and minorities are grossly underrepresented across the industry.

Women currently earn about half of science and engineering degrees, but they make up just 20% of employees in those fields. In cybersecurity specifically, women make up only an estimated 24% of the workforce and minorities are also largely underrepresented, accounting for just 26% of all employees. More specifically, just 9% of the cybersecurity workforce is Black; 8% is Asian; and 4% are Hispanic, according to a 2021 Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Cybersecurity report from policy program Aspen Digital. 

What’s more, this lack of diversity is not just limited to gender and ethnicity but also extends to other dimensions, such as age, disabilities, and neurodiversity. The reasons for this are multifaceted, but historically, the cybersecurity industry has been perceived as having a male-dominated and exclusive culture, deterring potential candidates from different backgrounds. Additionally, limited access to quality and affordable education has contributed to a vast underrepresentation of certain groups.

The benefits of a diverse and inclusive workforce

Creating a diverse and inclusive workforce is not just about meeting a quota. Diverse teams bring many benefits including a wider range of perspectives and experiences which leads to better problem-solving and more innovation. Cybersecurity threats are constantly evolving and a diverse team with vast experiences allows for a broader understanding of risks and vulnerabilities.

Inclusive teams foster creativity and productivity, as individuals feel more valued and empowered to share new ideas and unique skills. Moreover, when employees feel accepted and respected for their individuality, they are more likely to be engaged and committed to a company’s goals.

Diverse employees also resonate more with an increasingly diverse customer base. As technology advances, it’s crucial to have a cybersecurity team that can understand and cater to the needs of a global clientele.

Increasing diversity and inclusion in the cybersecurity industry will require removing several roadblocks:

1. Fixing pay inequity

The gender pay gap is certainly not something exclusive to the cybersecurity industry. However, it is one of the worst offenders. When asked about their previous year’s salary, 17% of women in cybersecurity said they earned between $50,000 and $99,999 per year, a full 12 percentage points less than men. Given an already saturated job market, women are unlikely to take jobs in an industry where they know they will be paid a fraction of what their male colleagues make.

Pay inequality cannot be fixed overnight. However, the long-term rewards cannot be overstated 17% of women in cybersecurity said they earned between $50,000 and $99,999 per year. Organizations that eradicate pay disparities can attract and retain more employees, unlock the numerous benefits of having a diverse workforce, and improve team morale.

2. Eradicate imposter syndrome

Many people are under the false impression that they cannot pursue a career in cybersecurity because they need years of experience or a highly technical background. On the contrary, this industry has opportunities for nearly everyone. Advanced training classes, immersive bootcamps and certifications can help candidates quickly gain the necessary technical skills they need for any role.

Employers and hiring managers need to understand this and extend opportunities to those from diverse backgrounds who may not have had the traditional cybersecurity career trajectory. Cybersecurity job descriptions often require college degrees, multiple certifications and years and years of experience in a variety of security disciplines. Many candidates who would be assets to organizations don’t apply because they assume that they are not qualified. Diverse and inclusive teams are the driving force behind successful companies. People of different genders, backgrounds, educational experiences and skills bring a wealth of creativity and new ideas to the table that are often much more important than any formal degree.

3. Make training more accessible

A 2020 Future of Jobs Report by the World Economic Forum found that by 2025 50% of all employees will need reskilling. Organizations can tap into a much larger pool of workers if they build cyber skills internally with training, education and certification support for new and current employees. Enable new graduates, veterans, people transitioning from other careers, and those with an interest in and aptitude for cybersecurity to learn and grow. Reskilling employees who wish to switch careers through bootcamps, seminars, internships and on-the-job training is also a great way to add to the talent pool. 

Cyber attacks are continually increasing and the threats to businesses are evolving every day. Increasing diversity and inclusion is the key to cutting down on attacks and creating a more skilled workforce. By diversifying hiring strategies and upskilling current employees, companies will see a real improvement in their security posture overall, along with increased employee satisfaction. 

To help companies tap into new talent pools, reskill current employees so that they can both better protect the organization, and tear down the roadblocks keeping women and minorities from entering the industry, ThriveDX has launched a Cybersecurity Apprenticeship Program. This unique program, made possible through strategic partnerships with non-profit organizations, aims to address the growing cybersecurity talent shortage while simultaneously enhancing workplace diversity across the sector. Selected candidates will be able to complete ThriveDX’s immersive cybersecurity bootcamps at zero-cost. Successful graduates will then receive certification and be placed in a one-year apprenticeship with one of the company’s incredible partner organizations.

To foster diversity, a majority of apprenticeship candidates will hail from underrepresented and under-resourced communities, including veterans of the U.S. military. To learn more about the Cybersecurity Apprenticeship Program visit, thrivedx.com/cybersecurity-apprenticeship-program.

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