Prioritizing diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace is an effort that every business should be making but it is especially important in cybersecurity.

Cybersecurity is a constantly evolving business. New threats emerge with regularity. Much like the variants of the COVID-19 virus, today’s phishing and ransomware attacks reach new levels of sophistication every month. A business that strives to provide effective cybersecurity needs to be agile, adaptive and open to a diverse range of critical thinking. A cybersecurity provider is more likely to achieve these qualities from a diverse workforce. 

Increased cyberattack frequency means an increased demand for cybersecurity professionals. By 2025, it is estimated that there will be over 3.5 million unfilled jobs in cybersecurity. Businesses are facing talent shortages all the more reason to factor diversity and inclusion (D&I) into recruitment efforts.

It’s, therefore, clear that the cybersecurity industry could benefit significantly from diversifying its workforce. Yet that talent pool is currently very limited. For instance, women make up just 11% of the cybersecurity field, while minority representation stands at 26%  better than the overall U.S. workforce but still a long way from satisfactory. 

Diversifying begins with data

It’s one thing to tell a sector it needs to diversify and quite another to make it happen. A common, albeit weak, argument companies make is that they’re hiring what’s available, and it’s not their fault that the talent pool isn’t diverse. 

Forward-thinking employers will look at how they can expand their reach and uncover candidates outside the traditional hiring channels. That’s why, when recruiting talent, it is critical that businesses strategically approach the onboarding process. Data is an important factor. Applicant tracking systems (ATS) are software applications that track and enhance onboarding.

By implementing ATS data into the hiring process, recruiters can better understand:

  • How candidates discovered the job opening.
  • Evaluate the diversity of the candidate pool.
  • Improve the application and interview process.

Job postings are the starting point for most prospective candidates. Ensuring that job postings are accurate and accessible must be a top priority. It is critical that companies ensure their descriptions are free from implicit bias that may filter out potential candidates especially those from underrepresented groups.  

Candidate surveys can also serve a critical role in gathering feedback to track candidate considerations and concerns during the recruitment process.

Prioritizing Talent Retention 

After onboarding talent, businesses need to maximize retention efforts. With the demand for cybersecurity pros increasing, maintaining employee morale is critical to ensuring employers don’t fall short of workers, especially those with valuable skills. Companies can achieve this through more inclusive policies, hosting in-office events in support of different cultures and providing educational training and workshops for current and prospective staff. Dismantling unconscious biases in the workplace is the core of promoting a more diverse and inclusive environment.  

Managers should also solicit staff feedback to help create a sense of psychological safety for employees. Continuous feedback allows management to demonstrate that staff issues and concerns are a priority for the company and are considered when making improvements internally. Additionally, gathering this insight allows for companies to mitigate expressed concerns before they compound into a larger issue. If employees are afforded the ability to provide feedback, they become contributors and feel part of the solution, in turn helping to boost engagement. 

According to reports, around 40% of workers quit after experiencing discrimination, bullying or harassment in the workplace. By providing opportunities for all employees to express their concerns, relationships between employees and their management are strengthened, and loss of talent can be minimized. It is important for staff members to be able to embrace an accessible environment where all parties feel included without concern for judgment.  

Diversity Fosters Innovation

When businesses incorporate employees from varying backgrounds, different approaches to critical thinking and problem-solving abilities can be employed. Diversity opens doors to new insights and innovation.

In a workplace lacking diversity, heads tend to turn away when people cannot find someone or something they are able to relate to. Prospective clients will often consider partnering with providers who offer more versatile services that better fit their needs. The likelihood of onboarding talent also decreases in less diverse workplaces, as work culture plays a large role in whether a person chooses to apply to a company. 

Respecting the unique needs of every job candidate and employee gives businesses a competitive advantage. Diversity allows companies to explore expansive points of view, which result in more innovative and progressive ideas critical in an evolving field like cybersecurity. Accessible opportunities not only ensure a respectable work environment but avoids overlooking talent that can be critical to a firm’s success. 

This article originally ran in Today’s Cybersecurity Leader, a monthly cybersecurity-focused eNewsletter for security end users, brought to you by Security magazine. Subscribe here.