International Women’s Day is a global day that celebrates the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women all around the world. It’s an opportunity to reflect on how much has changed over the past decades, but also to bring attention to ongoing issues that still require a lot of focus such as gender discrimination and gender disparity in the workplace.
This is particularly true for the UK’s cybersecurity sector, where women make up 22% of the workforce and only 13% of those account for senior roles. Although these figures represent an improvement (2020 women accounted for 15% of cybersecurity roles), these figures show that there’s clearly more work to be done.
The cybersecurity sector is a significant employer in the UK, so the diversity, equality, equity and inclusion of its workplaces affect many thousands of people from a wide range of backgrounds. The moral case for equality of opportunity is clear, however, given the growing demand for cybersecurity talent and the sector’s well-known skills shortage, attracting more women into the industry has become critically important.
The campaign theme for International Women’s Day 2023 is Embrace Equity, which aims to spark global dialogue about why equal opportunities are no longer enough. Firstly, I am instantly a fan of anything that starts with imitating a hug, but this message really struck a chord with me.
So, what’s the difference between equality and equity? According to the International Women’s Day website, while equality-based solutions drive equal service for all, equity-based solutions take into account the diverse lived experiences of individuals and communities, adapting services and policies according to these differences.
One of the ways we can achieve this in the workplace is to have organisations take an active role in leading on diversity and inclusion. We, as leaders, need to embed equity into the entire talent life cycle. We have to be accountable, not just on International Women’s Day, but all year round. Something, which we are championing here at Adarma.
At Adarma, we’re always looking at what we as an organisation can do better. We believe that equity isn’t a nice-to-have, it’s a must have. One of our core values is to enrich our workforce by creating a work environment where everyone can thrive. I am delighted to say that since I have joined the company, Adarma has made great strides towards achieving this.
In 2021, we joined forces with a number of organisations including Morgan Stanley, ScotlandIS, Lloyds Banking Group, and NCC group to back “Empowering Women to Lead in Cyber Security”, a gender diversity programme to support women on their career journey and prepare them to transition into cybersecurity leadership roles.
Following the success of the Scottish programme, and to accelerate our commitment to gender diversity, in 2022 we became the first industry partner to join techUK and the Cabinet Office’s Government Security Group to support the expansion of the programme into England.
For me, it was so inspiring to get direct feedback from our female team members who participated in the programme and the positive impact it had on their confidence and personal development. It’s fantastic to see the programme continue to flourish and I am excited to see what our talented women achieving in the future.
I strongly believe that equity at the recruitment level, the start of the talent lifecycle, is essential. Too often, I’ve seen over the decades of my career how people from underrepresented groups have struggled or been deterred from roles in cybersecurity for an assortment of reasons. From the perception cybersecurity male-dominated industry, rigid work practices to a lack of flexibility in recruitment, there’s a cloak of mystery around what it’s really like to work in cybersecurity. These barriers to entry/retention mean we’re missing out on the potential of an untapped talent pool of people who could bring diversity of thought and new perspectives to the table.
Last year, Adarma partnered with The Prince’s Trust to launch “Get Started in Cybersecurity,” a practical skills development programme aimed specifically at vulnerable young people from diverse backgrounds to help them embark on a career in cybersecurity.
We want to show people, who might have thought a career in cybersecurity wasn’t possible or desirable, what it’s really like to work in cybersecurity and that there are alternative career paths accessible to them.
The feedback from our first cohort was so encouraging, with some now pursuing higher education in cybersecurity as a direct result of their participation on the course, shows me that we’re on the right track. Cybersecurity organisations must prioritise creating more career opportunities and modifying their hiring process in ways that take into consideration more diverse backgrounds and life experiences.
Here are my two cents on how we, as cyber leaders, can help our organisations to embrace equity in 2023:
– Use data to understand, monitor and improve the talent lifecycle
– Rethink recruitment methods and criteria to include a wider range of talent, and transferable skills
– Make job descriptions and adverts for cyber roles are clear and accessible, to ensure they are inclusive
– Ensure that interview panels are balanced and diverse
– Highlight women in leadership roles within your organisation
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