New funding for diversity in cybersecurity targets untapped talent

Four new projects across England to encourage more women, BAME, and neurodiverse candidates into a career in cybersecurity have been announced

Four new projects across England to encourage more women, BAME, and neurodiverse candidates into a career in cybersecurity have been announced by Digital Minister Margot James.

The government’s Cyber Skills Immediate Impact Fund (CSIIF) plans to invest at least £500,000 in four new projects focused on encouraging diverse candidates into a career in cybersecurity.

The CSIIF was launched in February 2018 to boost not only the total number but the diversity of those working in the UK’s cybersecurity industry. It helps organisations develop and sustain projects that identify, train and place untapped talent from a range of backgrounds into cybersecurity roles quickly.

Four new projects will jointly benefit from a total investment of £500,000 as part of this next round of funding.

The projects receiving funding are:

Crucial Academy: Diversity in Cybersecurity

This initiative based in Brighton looks to retrain veterans in cyber security, in particular focusing on women, neurodiverse candidates and BAME individuals.

QA: Cyber Software Academy for Women

This project running in London, Bristol, and Manchester will train and place a cohort of women into cyber development job roles within industry. An additional cohort will also be trained in Birmingham as part of the West Midlands Combined Authority Skills Deal.

Blue Screen IT: HACKED

This Plymouth based initiative will scale up an already existing programme which identifies, trains, and places individuals, including neurodiverse candidates, those with special needs and those from disadvantaged backgrounds into a cybersecurity career.

Hacker House Ltd: Hands on Hacking, Training and Employer Portal

This project-based online will develop a portal allowing for an increased number of people to be trained and then engage with employers.

Digital Minister Margot James said: “Our cybersecurity industry is thriving but to support this growing success we need a skilled and diverse workforce to match. These latest projects show that whatever your background, ethnicity or sex, there are opportunities to join the cybersecurity profession. We want to demonstrate that you can have a dynamic and exciting career in a sector that sits at the heart of our economy, and is a key part of our modern Industrial Strategy.”

Derek Lin, Chief Data Scientist at Exabeam, said: “Any initiative that strives to create a level playing field, regardless of the game, should be encouraged.  There have been numerous studies that show having a more diverse workplace actually makes an organisation a better place to work. Ultimately a successful organisation needs diverse opinions and ideas – different, and valuable, perspectives on problems. I am proud to say that the data science team in Exabeam that I am guiding is gender-balanced, at 50-50% women to men.  To me, each individual is unique when it comes to mentorship, regardless of gender, and take different paths to progress their growth in their organisation.”

Tara O’Sullivan, CMO at Skillsoft, said: “Women have long faced challenges when entering jobs or careers that are seen as ‘for men’. The technology industry – and cybersecurity in particular – has a reputation as a boy’s club, and this can make it difficult for women to make an impact in these organisations. People tend to hire those they recognise and identify with, and this unconscious bias can foster damaging behaviours.  Traditional stereotypes negatively influence women all the way through their careers, from education right through to hiring and promotion.  

“These views, however, simply don’t stand up to the facts. Companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35% more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians. Additionally, a study from Bersin by Deloitte showed that diverse companies had 2.3 times higher cash flow per employee than non-diverse companies did. 

“Ultimately it starts with education – from school to the boardroom. In school, coding should be mandatory for everyone; complex problem solving and critical thinking should be part of everyday life. In the workplace, training programmes can help people understand conscious and unconscious bias; both helping people to change the way they think, and call out unfair behaviour.”

>See also: GCHQ launches all-female cyber-skills classes to tackle shortages

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