By Ciara Campbell, Security Engineer Manager EMEA & APAC, Tenable

A diverse workforce is a prerequisite to unlocking the full potential of any team or organisation. When you break it down, a business is nothing more than a group of people, often organised by a common set of values and interests that carry forward a shared business mission.

Even the smallest community (our friends, our families) are diverse by nature: the most obvious one being diversity of gender. That said, there will still be differences in opinions and contributions that each member brings to the table. For companies, and cybersecurity specifically, if everyone on the team thinks the same way, you’ve already lost the race with attackers.

Speaking personally, I came into my career in cybersecurity later in life than most. After having two children, and having worked in retail banking for a number of years, I made the decision to go back to University as a mature student (in Ireland).

Through increased inclusion and diversity—of race, gender, perspective and thought— we can achieve greater creativity and innovation, think outside the box, and outmanoeuvre our adversaries.

So what’s stopping us?

A career in cybersecurity

The under-representation of women in cybersecurity is linked to the broader problem of a lower rate of women enrolling in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. Diversity breeds diversity. Education is key. We need to start early with our children and make it fun. At the moment, technology lessons are typically quite boring in school and, unless you like coding, it puts kids off having a career in tech. We all know that there are so many different fun and amazing careers available in this industry, and even coding can be turned into an interesting activity.

Security can be about prevention and detection but it doesn’t just come down to those two aspects.  There are many layers to security which is what makes it such a fun industry to work in. I have always said, do what you love and it will all fall into place. If you want to work in an exciting and fast-changing environment with huge opportunities for growth then Security is the industry to be in. Even if you think the technology is not up your street there are so many other jobs in this area that make it really exciting. I really feel people don’t realise this, you could work in marketing, finance, legal, HR etc. It doesn’t always have to be a technical position and you will still be excited about the industry and learn something new every day.

Of course, it’s not all a bed of roses. Sometimes, keeping up with all the technical knowledge can be hard and it’s so vast. I have learnt that everyone comes across things they haven’t heard of before or haven’t seen and it’s okay to say “I don’t know that, can you tell me about it or I will go and find that out”. An important lesson I have learnt is don’t feel like you need to know everything. It’s continuous learning every day.

How organisations can attract diverse cyber talent

Organisations often share that resources are constrained by a lack of ‘good people’ to hire. A solution is for companies to hire people with less experience, or even an intern program, and spend time and money to train and upskill recruits. It’s not just about new hires, but employers investing in their people through certifications and training.

While the technology skills gap has been a recurring challenge for many years, recent reports suggest that this is particularly true in the cybersecurity sector. Harvey Nash Group suggests that there has been a shortfall of 10,000 people a year in the UK’s cybersecurity talent pool. According to Microsoft, there are 2.5 million unfilled cybersecurity jobs worldwide.

That said, there is an opportunity for organisations to think a little more creatively about what they offer to their workforce.

A flexible working environment, combined with a diverse and healthy company culture, will be key to not only attracting cyber talent but also retaining it. There could be some that think, allowing employees to determine their own working environment or even hours, will mean a drop in productivity. In reality, the truth is often quite the reverse. By allowing employees to have the flexibility to work wherever, whenever, and as long as they meet their commitments, many organisations actually see an increase in productivity.

With increasingly blurred lines between work and home, company culture is even more important to people when evaluating employment opportunities. Companies that can demonstrate that they take a “people first” approach can often present more interesting and supportive benefits with a particular focus on wellness efforts, increased days off and assistance programs that allow employees to focus on themselves.

Diversity awareness has definitely increased recently, but there is still a lot of room for improvement. There is increased awareness of diversity and the positive role it plays in the workplace. It empowers us to achieve greater creativity and innovation, allowing us to think outside the box, and drive innovation that allows us to grow closer to our customers, partners, and communities.

While things are better, there is still more that needs to be done.

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