Women in Tech: Developing Diverse Cyber Talent

It’s no secret that tech has struggled to diversify its workforce. Equal representation of minorities and women in tech still has a long way to go. But as companies also struggle to fill cybersecurity jobs, there can sometimes be a disconnect between needing to fill a position today and working harder to make cyber teams more diverse in the future. To properly address the problem, first we need to understand what’s causing the problem.

Women in Tech: By the Numbers

In 2014, some of the biggest tech companies in the world came together to look at the representation of women and minorities among their ranks through a joint diversity study. The idea was that by understanding the demographics of the company, it would be able to better move toward a more diverse workplace.

Unfortunately, the 2020 study showed little has changed in the past decade, despite efforts to increase diversity. While women are now 23% of Facebook’s technical workforce, African-American employees are woefully underrepresented (3.8% of the workforce) as well as at Twitter (2% of the workforce). At Apple, 53% of new hires are from historically underrepresented groups in tech, however the lack of diversity in leadership roles indicates people within these groups are not sticking around or being promoted.

The need for more women in tech and an overall increase in diversity throughout the tech world is well documented and even more pressing when it comes to cybersecurity. In 2020, it should go without saying that diversity is good for business, leading to better products and services that are designed for a wide range of people. With the demographics of the U.S. becoming more diverse each year, smart businesses should be making diversity hiring a priority if they are to compete in the future, yet as we see with these tech giants, it takes more than simply acknowledging the problem.

Create a Safe, Supportive Workplace

To create a diverse workforce, your company must hire and retain a diverse staff. Encourage an environment where team members are supportive. Competition should be healthy, not cut-throat. Nicknames and teasing, even if done “in good fun” can leave employees feeling like they’re on the outside.

Companies are wise to take a hard look at company culture and ensure it is not discriminatory, especially if areas of your workforce are male-dominated. A 2017 poll by the Pew Research Center found that 50% of women said they had experienced gender discrimination at work. The numbers were even higher for women working in tech at 74%, or in a male-dominated workplaces at 78%.

Bottom line? There’s a need to ensure workplaces are safe environments for all employees and that companies foster a culture of support and inclusion, free of snarky comments and cliques. Letting a negative workplace environment fester can not only lead to attrition, but as word gets out in tight-knit circles like cybersecurity, it can hamper recruiting too.

Hire for Skills and Experience First

Every hiring manager and HR recruiter is looking for that impressive resume with a specific degree from a top school and all the right job titles, but in a tight cybersecurity job market, those can be hard to come by. Instead of relying on HR software to curate resumes, look more closely for people who may not be an exact fit at first glance but have all the right skills.

While most hiring managers may be reluctant to admit it, unconscious bias can influence hiring decisions, especially when looking for people who will fit in with the team. This can often lead to hiring people like themselves, in appearance, background and world-view. One way companies are overcoming this, according to TechRepublic, is to use diverse analytics software to hide personal information, such as name, age, gender, and ethnicity, allowing recruiters to focus on more relevant factors like job skills and experience.

This kind of tech is the idea behind the CyberSN platform KnowMore, which also puts the focus on skills and experience, creating anonymous profiles companies can review without the professional worrying about bias.

Don’t Overlook Candidates With Career Gaps

Because there’s a shortage of cybersecurity professionals in the workforce today, it’s a great opportunity for people who have left work for a while to re-enter the workforce. It remains an amazing untapped talent pool.

COVID-19 is forcing many people, especially women who are often the caregivers, to opt out of the workforce. It can be difficult for women to come back to work after such breaks, leaving talented people willing to work sidelined. Why risk losing a qualified professional just because of a career gap? In the interview, ask about the break—motivated people will often tell you about volunteer work, training, or professional development they did during that time, ensuring they stayed engaged and kept skills fresh.

How Are Companies Creating a Diverse Workplace?

The financial research firm Morningstar formed a women’s initiative group that aims to make Morningstar a leading supporter of women in financial services, and created a diversity council to provide a platform for discussions on diversity to foster change. Tech company Vail Systems created a policy requiring at least one woman participate in the interview process for each role. The company also makes sure to have women representing Vail at all of its recruiting events.

These examples reveal that hiring for diversity takes more than simply a desire to do so. Taking action within the company indicating diversity is a priority is a good first step. Giving your hiring process a fresh look and how it may be leaving people out is another.

As a woman-owned company, CyberSN is committed to improving diversity throughout the cybersecurity industry and helping others do so too. Our results speak for themselves. At CyberSN, 52% of our placements are diversity hires. We know it’s possible to find great talent among all races and genders. If you’d like to learn what your company can do to improve workplace diversity, get in touch.