Improve Diversity and Cybersecurity Hiring in One Fell Swoop

Michael Carr, JD, CISSP, CCSP, CIPP/US/E Adjunct Faculty, Cincinnati State and Andrew Opare, Security+, Ohio Army National Guard

Michael Carr, JD, CISSP, CCSP, CIPP/US/E Adjunct Faculty, Cincinnati State and Andrew Opare, Security+, Ohio Army National Guard

No one will be surprised to hear that the current demand for cybersecurity professionals continues to exceed the supply; however, not everyone recognizes the hiring gains that can be made by recruiting underrepresented Gen Zers into the profession. If done correctly, the hiring of underrepresented Gen Zers into entry-level cybersecurity positions can address both the personnel shortage and the goal for a more diverse security workforce. The steps cannot be taken overnight but the results can be realized if the organization is sincere and perseveres.

HR recruiters often lament a lack of diversity in cybersecurity jobapplications, but a closer look often reveals a lack of diversity in HR’s “sales and marketing” techniques. You can’t expect to catch different fish if you’re always casting into the same waters whereas a concerted and ongoing effort to develop relationships with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs) will be recognized by underrepresented GenZstudents who are eager to prove themselves in a career that rewards passion.

If an organization is truly committed to building and benefitting from a cybersecurity talent pipeline, it may want to invest in cybersecurity programs for underrepresented students well before they are in college. Considering that Gen Z is the first generation to be entering the workforce having always known social media and advanced tech, they will not be impressed with antiquated systems, and they won’t stay if they are unsatisfied with their conditions. They will be looking for stable businesses with strong histories and a bright future. If you’ve been engaged with them since high school, that memory will bode well for you when they apply for entry-level cybersecurity jobs.

“If an organization is truly committed to building and benefitting from a cybersecurity talent pipeline, it may want to invest in cybersecurity programs for underrepresented students well before they are in college.”

Lastly, underrepresented Gen Zers who are ready to apply their cybersecurity skills in the real world are looking for organizations that “walk the talk”. If you have a viable mentorship program, support groups for minority and Latinx employees, and at least one person whose full-time responsibility is to advocate for inclusivity and diversity, underrepresented Gen Zers may be interested. That said, this pragmatic and yet progressive generation is especially interested in organizations in which diversity is the norm and notjust another goal. 

So, before you throw in the towel and give up on recruiting this latest generation of cybersecurity graduates, you should firstwork to rid yourself of racially insensitive and disrespectful employees(and terminology), help develop the next generation of cybersecurity professionals by investing in high school programs, and look to hire graduates from institutions that extend beyond your typical purview.  

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