DEI initiatives essential to address cyber skills gap

Cybersecurity professionals worldwide face a number of emerging challenges such as economic uncertainty, AI, regulatory fragmentation, and skills gaps

As the digital age continues to advance, cybercriminals and their attacks are becoming more and more sophisticated. This means that both individuals and businesses cannot afford to jeopardise their security measures, as a breach in one company could negatively impact an entire supply chain and network. 

ISC2, a leading non-profit for cybersecurity professionals, reports that the UK's cybersecurity workforce has grown to 367,300 people, an 8.3% increase from 2022, creating over 28,000 new jobs. However, despite this growth, the 2023 ISC2 Cybersecurity Workforce Study reveals a significant workforce gap, with a record high of 73,439 professionals required to protect digital assets adequately, marking a 29.3% increase from 2022. 

The study has also identified new challenges that are affecting cybersecurity professionals, such as economic uncertainty, artificial intelligence (AI), regulatory fragmentation, and skills gaps. What’s more, 76% of UK cybersecurity experts consider the current threat landscape as the most challenging in the past five years. Only 54% believe their organisations possess the necessary tools and personnel to address cyber incidents in the next two to three years.

Clar Rosso, ISC2’s CEO, says: "While we celebrate the record number of new cybersecurity professionals entering the field, the pressing reality is that we must double this workforce to adequately protect organisations and their critical assets.”

Promoting global diversity and inclusion in cybersecurity

One strategy which will undoubtedly strengthen cybersecurity teams, is workforce diversity, with organisations worldwide adopting DEI initiatives, implementing skills-based hiring, and refining job descriptions to highlight DEI objectives. Skills-based hiring has yielded positive results, with a global average of 25.5% of women in their workforce, as opposed to 22.2% in organisations not embracing this approach. 

Nevertheless, there is still progress to be made, as women make up only 26% of global cybersecurity professionals under the age of 30. DEI initiatives not only drive diversity but also enhance workforce readiness. Organisations incorporating DEI hiring practices report heightened preparedness among their cybersecurity professionals in addressing cyber threats over the next two to three years.

Cybersecurity workforce of the future

It seems that when looking to the future, organisations are proactively implementing a number of measures in order to strengthen their cybersecurity teams. According to the UK survey participants, their organisations’ strategies include providing flexible work arrangements (71%), investing in employee training (70%), allocating resources to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives (69%), endorsing certifications (64%), and expanding their teams through recruitment, hiring, and onboarding of new personnel (60%) to address and alleviate staff shortages.

Apart from technical expertise in diverse skills, UK cybersecurity experts stress the importance of non-technical skills, including problem-solving abilities (38%) and a sense of curiosity and a willingness to learn (38%) rank highest on the list, with effective communication (37%) following closely behind.

"Amid the current threat landscape, which is the most complex and sophisticated it has ever been, the escalating challenges facing cybersecurity professionals underscore the urgency of our message,” Rosso concludes. “Organisations must invest in their teams, both in terms of new talent and existing staff, equipping them with the essential skills to navigate the constantly evolving threat landscape. It is the only way to ensure a resilient profession that can strengthen our collective security.”

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