Cyber Security and Diversity 2017

Cyber Security and Diversity 2017

As I make my way to another workshop dedicated to diversity, it seems the need to employ those who make up 50% of the population (us women) aren’t the only kind of diversity the industry is considering.

Just over a year ago, during Masterclass 2015, I mentioned autism to a woman who told me about a colleague who had published a white paper about autism and cyber-crime. That is not to say autism is directly linked to cyber-crime, but 2016 has highlighted, that if the binary and sensory controlled world of the internet is a preference to those with Autism Spectrum Condition (ASC) then we should be doing more to embrace them into the cyber security profession before the world of organised online criminality does.

The new kind of diversity is all about Neuro-diversity. For me, it’s a celebration of all the kinds of people we already have in the industry. Lots of the technically savvy I know, are left-handed and don’t have degrees. They had to be ‘creative’ just to get through their O Level’s (these were exams before GCSEs ok? And no creative doesn’t mean they cheated). The neurodiversity symposium says “Neurodiversity is a concept [and a social movement] where neurological differences are to be recognised and respected as any other human variation.” Sounds like the right thing to do really, and neuro-typical is what the average person is known as (bit like coming from a ‘normal family’).

It’s looks as though the industry is branching out. This means a guide to employers will be available shortly for all those employability questions. There will also be an attempt to change some of the way we run apprenticeships and build GCSE Exams; but why bother if the industry is made up of this neurodiversity anyway? Well it’s to recognise and take the sting out of those who feel different, being different is great when you’re an adult, but remember being a teenager who just wanted to fit in?

The industry is doing some great ground work and it hasn’t forgotten the need for women. If you took a photo of some the classrooms delivering STEM subjects, you may think nothing’s changed. Yet although male participation is generally greater than females in STEM subjects, I think the internal landscape has changed massively. Millennials and those younger have a language for their emotional landscape. (I’ve seen teenage boys hug their friends at the school gates, we just didn’t do this in the 80’s! It’s wonderful.) I think this means that the future of the industry needs to focus on the messaging, starting with job descriptions to media output of what success looks like. Young men don’t want to work for an industry that is always being described in the media as female poor; are they quietly asking themselves, what’s wrong?

I urge each person reading this to make a promise to talk to someone new in the office and engage with a colleague who doesn’t look, feel or sound just like you. If you’re not sure what I mean, Google “unconscious-bias” there are lots of free online tests. If the results worry you or more importantly if they don’t worry you at all; consider running a half day workshop for your team. It’s time to wake up.

In 2017 I am running lots of events; for women; for youth and cadet engagement; for ASC opportunities and if you want to help me engage any of these neuro-diverse audiences, I’d like your input and support … come and be part of a social movement. Saldridge@cybersecuritychallenge.org.uk

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