Creating a more diverse cybersecurity workforce

A truly diverse workforce is required to protect companies and countries from a growing variety of cyber threats. However, according to a report from (ISC)2, the current cybersecurity industry is predominantly male and white, with only 26% of cybersecurity professionals identifying as ethnic and racial minorities, and only 14% identifying as female.

Creating a more inclusive cybersecurity workforce will require focused effort. Today, we want to give teachers practical takeaways they can use daily. Find out how you can challenge the status quo and create a more diverse future cybersecurity workforce.

Bring Diverse Professionals into the Classroom

The first step to challenging the status quo is opening your students’ vision for their futures. You can inspire underrepresented students to pursue careers in IT and cybersecurity by inviting in successful multi-cultural professionals as guest speakers.

In a recent webinar discussing diversity in cybersecurity, we talked with Priya Senthilkumar, Vice President of Technology at Pearson VUE. Priya was quick to emphasize the power of guest speakers in inspiring the next generation of professionals.

“Educators can bring in successful professionals as guest speakers. And, you know, students may not be enrolled in your class. When students see individuals that they can relate to, when they see their own characteristics in someone else, they’re more likely to pay attention. They’ll think, ‘I can see myself like them someday.’”

Not sure where to find professionals who can come and share their time with your students? Start with your past students and your institution’s alumni network. Yulini Persaud, Senior Information Security Analyst for the New York Times said, “I am so happy, as an alumnus, when past teachers reach out with opportunities to share my experience in their classrooms, and I know I’m not alone. I'm sure if you're at a CTE program or even a university, you've had some graduates who are more than willing to come back and chat with your current class.”

Promote Opportunities Outside the Classroom

Creating inclusive opportunities may start in the classroom, but that’s certainly not where it ends. Help your students see opportunities outside the classroom, both those connected to school and beyond.

One opportunity Yulini highlighted was her school’s CyberPatriot club. Yulini recalled, “I was very lucky to have a shop teacher in 12th grade who recommended us for the CyberPatriot program. It’s a high school competition that prepares students to learn how to protect different operating systems. Through this club, I got hands-on experience with Linux, Windows, Mac OS, and more. I loved that they were real world scenarios.”

If you’re open to expanding the scope further, you can connect students with non-school sponsored activities, such as internships. Priya highlighted opportunities happening in her home state of Minnesota. “Minnesota is trying ‘micro-internships.’ It’s not a full-scale summer internship, but rather an opportunity for students to take an hour or so a week during the school year to go and shadow a professional in a field they’re interested in. I think this is a low-cost, time effective way to help cement students’ interest in a particular field.”

Help Students Earn Industry-Recognized Credentials

You’re expanding your students’ vision and opportunities. Now you can solidify their skills with industry-recognized credentials that they can take with them into their future careers.

Certiport offers a full portfolio of industry recognized technology certifications, including the Cisco Certified Support Technician program, which was designed to validate work-ready skills and knowledge to help learners find a job in the field of cybersecurity. You can learn more about Cisco Certified Support Technician certifications here.

Certifications, like Cisco’s, are incredibly valuable, especially in today’s skill-based economy. IT professionals with certifications have an average salary of $111,334, 7% more than non-certified professionals. You can learn more about the value of certifications here.

Tomorrow’s IT professionals are in your classroom today. Now is the time to inspire inclusion and give them the network, opportunities, and skills they need to succeed.