Four new projects across England aiming to encourage more women, BAME and neurodiverse candidates into a career in cybersecurity have been announced by Digital Minister Margot James.
They will each jointly benefit from a total investment of at least £500,000 as part of the next round of the Cyber Skills Immediate Impact Fund (CSIIF).
The aim of the Fund is to boost not only the total number, but the diversity of those working in the UK’s cybersecurity industry. It will help organisations develop and sustain projects that identify, train and place untapped talent from a range of backgrounds into cybersecurity roles quickly.
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.”
The projects receiving funding are:
Crucial Academy: Diversity in Cyber Security
This initiative based in Brighton looks to retrain veterans in cybersecurity, in particular focusing on women, neurodiverse candidates and BAME individuals.
Neil Williams CEO of Crucial Group said: “We at Crucial Academy are incredibly grateful for the support that the CSIIF provides. As veterans ourselves, we understand how programmes like this are invaluable in aiding the transition into civilian life. This support will help facilitate our continued commitment to veterans, women, neurodiverse and the BAME communities.”
QA: Cyber Software Academy for Women
This project running in London, Bristol, and Manchester will train and place a cohort of women into cyberdevelopment job roles within industry. An additional cohort will also be trained in Birmingham as part of the West Midlands Combined Authority Skills Deal.
Lisa Harrington, Managing Director QA Learning said: “We are extremely excited to be awarded this crucial funding for our collaborative initiative with Women’s Tech Jobs, the QA Cyber Academy for Women. It will have an immediate impact on beginning to address the diversity issues within the cybersecurity sector and be an inspirational beacon to inspire the next generation of female cyberists.”
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.
Michael Dieroff, CEO of Bluescreen IT said: “BluescreenIT are extremely proud to be chosen as one of the lead organisations to deliver real social impact through our Hacked Cyber Hub initiative.
“The project aims to build a network of UK community Security Operations hubs across the UK, which will engage and service the local community and businesses with cost effective cyber security services. These hubs will increase the employment of IT professionals through cyber and digital apprenticeships, reducing the growing skills gap across all sectors.”
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.
CEO Jennifer Arcuri from Hacker House said: “Cyberskills play such a vital role in the development to the digital economy and its fantastic to see the UK government make it such a priority. The team of Hacker House are thrilled to be included in the funding of this grant as this allows us the opportunity to continue to develop content that trains and enable candidates to retain practical skills needed for roles within information security.
Industry experts have commented on the news.
Marina Kidron, Director of threat intelligence at Skybox Security, emphasised how the cybersecurity industry benefits from traditionally female skill sets but stated the funding will only see an impact if the subtle hiring biases that currently exist within the industry can be eradicated.
She said: “Cybersecurity is a perfect industry for women to work in. The best security professionals have capabilities that span multiple disciplines and the best security teams have the empathy and the understanding needed to work well together. These are skills that women are known to have mastered, making cybersecurity companies some of the best places for us to excel.
“Cybersecurity requires a diverse skill set that is not adequately represented by one homogenous group. Diverse groups are more adept at innovation and problem solving, bringing new ideas and challenging long-held assumptions. To attract and retain women and minorities, cybersecurity leaders need to stress the value of inclusion and eliminate subtle hiring biases that could cause them to overlook interesting qualified candidates.”
“Too often, cybersecurity is perceived as being a ‘man’s world’ – this is a misconception that needs addressing early on, particularly by giving younger women who are interested in STEM subjects the encouragement and support they need to consider careers in cybersecurity. It’s an exciting industry where we’re tackling real-world challenges at a fast pace every day. I would encourage every woman considering a career in cybersecurity to give it a go – don’t be afraid, the water’s warm here.”
Derek Lin, Chief Data Scientist at Exabeam: “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: “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 every day 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.”