GCHQ has unveiled new all-female classes in cyber skills after finding that almost 90% of the sector’s worldwide workforce is male.
It is offering up 600 free places on all-female CyberFirst Defenders courses in April and May of this year, with venues for the four-day courses including Nottingham, Lancaster, Wrexham, Edinburgh and Oxfordshire.
McAfee’s EMEA president, Adam Philpott, has praised the move, saying “It’s fantastic that GCHQ is doing its part to encourage young women into STEM careers at an early stage.” However, he warns that this is only one aspect of the wider diversity problem.
“Companies themselves also need to build diversity into every single process, programme and initiative to counteract unconscious bias,” believes Philpott. “Data suggests that most cyber security staff seek the same qualities in others that they see in themselves, which explains how the talent pool has become so homogenous. However, once aware of this, organisations can implement initiatives to promote greater diversity.
“Building diverse teams should be a no-brainer for businesses, as doing so has clear benefits – from boosting creativity to achieving greater financial success. Not only do diverse organisations have a wider bank of perspectives and expertise to draw on, but companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15 per cent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians.”
Philpott believes that this initiative from GCHQ will bring great benefits for the UK, but warns that it’s crucial that programmes like these are rolled out more widely, across the EMEA region and the globe.
“Today’s skills gap is an international issue that can only be addressed through co-operation between businesses, governments and non-profit organisations," he concluded.
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