Written by: Reagan Flowers, Ph.D.
Change often takes much longer than any of us would like, especially regarding diversity and inclusion. However, this month, the White House took a big step forward in appointing an expert to increase diversity in tech. They didn’t just choose anyone, but a black female Google executive, who understands first-hand the challenges and disparities in the industry. As Deputy National Cyber Director for Technology and Ecosystem Security, Camille Stewart Gloster is tasked with increasing the nation’s cybersecurity, building a more diverse workforce, and strengthening cyber education.
Minimal Representation in the Cybersecurity Workforce
Let’s start by looking at what the cybersecurity landscape looks like in the U.S. Of the 1 million workers in the industry, only 24% are female. Just 4% are Hispanic, and only 9% are Black. That’s incredibly low when you look at the composition of the U.S. population: 51% women, 13% Black, and 19% Hispanic.
When you look at pay and advancement, the disparities are even more concerning. For example, 23% of minority cybersecurity professionals hold a director role or above, compared to 30% of their Caucasian peers. On average, a cybersecurity professional of color earns $115,000, while the overall U.S. cybersecurity workforce average is $122,000.
Barriers in Cybersecurity for Minorities and Women
With 750,000 unfilled jobs in cybersecurity, one would think that it would be easier to improve diversity. However, several barriers stand in the way.
First, hiring practices may exclude willing, qualified candidates by requiring too much experience. College graduates struggle to find positions, as many hiring managers need five years of experience for entry-level positions. In effect, this creates a domino effect. If minorities and women embrace the opportunity, tackle all the challenges to enter the cyber workforce, and can’t find work, interest, and participation will undoubtedly decline.
Second, once in the cybersecurity field, many experience discrimination, with 32% of cybersecurity professionals of color reporting that they have experienced some form of discrimination in the workplace.
Third, with a lack of representation in an industry that has its own culture, these workers often feel unwelcome and left out. To bridge the gap, 49% of minority cybersecurity professionals said mentorship programs are vital.