Diversity in Cyber Security06 Oct, 20234 mins
Promoting diversity of thought in cybersecurityThe latest cybersecurity skills in the UK lab...
Promoting diversity of thought in cybersecurity
The latest cybersecurity skills in the UK labour market 2023 report highlighted 160,000 job postings in the last year, which is a rise of 30 per cent despite only a 10 per cent hike in employment in the sector. As the demand for skilled cyber experts has risen, driven largely by working-from-home security concerns during the pandemic, the number of specialists in the market has not grown at a pace quick enough to keep up.
While there is talent available, to an extent, it’s at the more experienced end of the spectrum where some will be leaving the market or even retiring early. And, clearly, there aren’t enough specialists coming through to fill these gaps. The biggest shortage is in the mid layer roles; individuals who hold anything from three to five years of engineering experience are gold dust for employers at the moment.
In short, there is a crisis – there are too many jobs and not enough people. Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) face the additional challenge that cyberattacks are becoming progressively more niche and sophisticated. Experts are therefore increasingly focusing on a specific discipline within the market, whereas many small businesses still need a ‘jack of all trades.’
To plug these skill gaps, it’s crucial that businesses are recruiting from the biggest pool of talent possible. This also means ensuring that they are not excluding any section of the population by including intentional barriers in their hiring approach or strategy.
Any workforce will benefit from having a diverse range of thought – particularly in areas such as tech which require forward-thinking, innovative perspectives. By hiring candidates from a variety of backgrounds able to draw from different experiences, businesses will gain a broad spectrum of points of view, helping to fill blind spots and explore solutions that others may have missed.
Cybersecurity, in particular, is a sector that has the potential to significantly benefit from a diverse workforce – not only to solve talent challenges but to drive progression in the sector.
Small steps the right direction
One area that has seen some progress is gender diversity. Many cyber businesses are slowly waking up to the idea that a diverse workforce is crucial to the success of the sector. And the fact is that women are typically extremely well-suited to cybersecurity roles – it’s in their evolution.
Yuval Noah Hariri’s book exploring humankind’s evolution: Sapiens, explores how our early male ancestors honed their long-distance vision for hunting with spears, whereas females’ sight was more geared towards foraging. This has resulted in many women developing a greater attention to detail and a more analytical brain, making them perfectly geared towards cybersecurity roles. The industry therefore needs more inspirational women to come to the fore and debunk the ‘macho’ image of the sector.
Recruiting people with neurodiversity to the sector is another way of not only filling vacancies but filling them with people capable of coming up with newer ideas from many different perspectives. Cyber is ever evolving and it makes sense to hire people who are capable of approaching cyber solutions in a different way.
Much like their female counterparts, neurodivergent employees, such as people with autism or ADHD, often demonstrate a keen attention to detail and ability to remain hyper focused. This is useful in many areas of cybersecurity, including defending against and responding to attacks where team members require the ability to identify anomalies, discover root causes of incidents, problem solve and sit through complex tasks for long periods of time. These skills and traits are of course useful in many other areas of cybersecurity too.
How can the cybersecurity sector improve when it comes to diversity?
Despite steps in the right direction, there is still work to be done to root out misogyny and stereotyping in cybersecurity. For example, some of the female guests on the Hamilton Barnes ‘The Route to Networking’ podcast have admitted to having been on the receiving end of derogatory comments. Improving exposure to the industry for girls will encourage more inspirational women to come to the fore but this needs significant investment in awareness during early education and through university programmes.
Similarly, organisations should be examining the inclusivity of their employment policies and actively targeting neurodivergent people. By understanding the barriers that neurodivergent individuals may face, introducing training on unconscious bias and championing diversity of thought, businesses can make pioneering leaps forward in the current climate. And these don’t always need to take the form of huge changes either. It may be a case of adapting hiring processes to give candidates more flexibility, for example giving the option of taking additional time, or receiving instructions in different mediums, such as verbally rather than written. Organisations that act now are going to lead the charge in building a better, faster and more secure internet for everybody.
The major bottleneck exists in filling entry roles, i.e. attracting graduates into the sector. To tackle this there needs to be greater external investment in the sector, particularly in awareness amongst school children and university students. Even as we advance into an age of increasingly sophisticated technologies likes 5G and AI, young people aren’t aware how they can contribute to these advancements.
At Hamilton Barnes we regularly visit career fairs and other events to talk about the career opportunities that are available across the networking sector. If you are interested in taking your first steps in a fast-paced, exciting networking career, get in touch with the team today.