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Black Women in Cyber Initiative Advances Cybersecurity Careers and Training

Software Engineers and Developers Shortage – problems of staff searching. Vector illustration

A new initiative is underway in the U.S. to increase the number of Black women and women of color working in the cybersecurity industry.

With the recent passing of the U.S. Senate's Cybersecurity Opportunity Act, Opportunity Hub (OHUB) has launched a new initiative to promote gender and racial equity in technology, said OHUB in its news release. Now, in partnership with GET Cities and The Links Inc., the Black Women in Cyber Initiative will advance the number and proportion of Black women and women of color in the cybersecurity industry.

OHUB explains that the initiative will provide early exposure, expert-led training, employer-recognized certificates and resources that will prepare women for rewarding cybersecurity careers. Undoubtedly, MSPs and MSSPs will benefit from a much-needed infusion of talent.

Meanwhile, women still only make up a quarter of the cybersecurity workforce, compared to 39% participation in the general workforce. At the same time, the global cybersecurity workforce would need to grow by 80% to meet current demand, according to a joint study by Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and The Global Cybersecurity Forum (GCF). The report is titled “Empowering Women to Work in Cybersecurity Is a Win-Win.”

Rodney Sampson, OHUB executive chairman and CEO, described the inspiration behind the Black Women in Cyber Initiative:

"Policy is precedent as a path to Black prosperity in the Fourth Industrial Revolution and beyond. To this end, OHUB remains committed to productizing and programming policy on behalf of Black people and all of our allies everywhere. It was a pleasure to work with Congressman Hank Johnson on the codification of the Cybersecurity Opportunity Act; and we're equally excited about our collaboration with the Second Muse Foundation, GET Cities, The Links, Incorporated, and our team of experts, facilitators, training institutions, and employees. Together, we can expose, educate and position thousands, even millions in the Black community, for the opportunities in cybersecurity and beyond."

Legislation Boosts Cybersecurity Training

In July 2022, U.S. Senator Jon Ossoff (D-Georgia) and U.S. Representative Hank Johnson (D-Georgia) successfully introduced bipartisan legislation to boost cybersecurity job training programs at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), OHUB stated. The legislation also established the Dr. David Satcher Cybersecurity Education Grant Program to expand cybersecurity training programs at HBCUs, tribal institutions, minority-serving institutions, and other colleges and universities that serve a high proportion of Pell Grant recipients nationwide.

Rep. Johnson, chair of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet, and lead sponsor of the Cybersecurity Opportunity Act in the House, discussed the need to diversify the cybersecurity talent pool:

"As threats to our national security escalate that affects our power grid, water systems and critical transportation infrastructure, the need to expand our cybersecurity capabilities must also keep pace. It's critically important that as we grow our cybersecurity sector, we diversify our pool of talent and expertise in this industry — and where better to draw upon existing capacity than our Historically Black Colleges and Universities and organizations like Opportunity Hub?"

IBM Helping Empower Women of Color

To support the development of the skills of the next generation workforce, IBM is offering the Fortinet Training Institute's Network Security Expert program free of charge to people who sign up for the Skillsbuild platform, OHUB said. With this extra support, women participating in this initiative can enter the field of cybersecurity confidently, meet industry demands and continuously build skills to advance their careers.

Ayanna Smith, managing director for GET Cities (Washington, D.C.), looks forward to the initiative’s impact:

"Our research points to the need for early exposure to cybersecurity career options for women and girls as a way of countering the barriers that disproportionately eliminate diverse talent from entering the industry. Helping women understand the factors that impact their ability to pass background checks and attain security clearances can have a huge impact on the number of women of color who become qualified to fill the thousands of cybersecurity jobs that remain vacant each year."

Partnership Goals Detailed

Under this new partnership, GET Cities will make a strategic investment to leverage Opportunity Hub's national profile and top-rated training programs. This effort will expose up to 350 women of color to definitive employer-recognized cybersecurity certificate programs.

The goals of this new partnership include:

  • Promoting cybersecurity as an entrepreneurial, investment and career path through webinars, Ask Me Anything, with industry professionals, and events and experiences with The Links to effectively reach more Black women
  • Onboarding up to 500 women of color with complimentary access to OHUB's curated learning paths on IBM Skillsbuild
  • Increasing the number of Black women enrolled in OHUB's nationwide network of top-rated Cybersecurity reskilling bootcamps

Participant benefits include:

  • Specialized masterclasses featuring cybersecurity experts
  • Membership in OHUB and free access to the NSE 1-7 Certification program
  • Assistance from advisors and industry experts to enroll in top-rated immersive training programs, such as Pivot Technology School, which offers data analytics, software development, and cybersecurity training
  • Cybersecurity job placement assistance and career coaching

Kieran Blanks, chief growth officer of Opportunity Hub, explained the initiative’s far-reaching impact:

"With this initiative, Black women will finally have the opportunity to enter this rapidly expanding field and change their careers and investment prospects to both contribute as well as unlock the great potential for innovation, leadership, creativity, and investment in cybersecurity. More importantly, this program is so extremely important because it has far reaching effects across all areas of the lives of Black women. The program participants will begin a journey of transformation to ready themselves and others in their families and communities for the economic opportunities of the Fourth Industrial Revolution."

Jim Masters

Jim Masters is Managing Editor of MSSP Alert, and holds a B.A. degree in Journalism from Northern Illinois University. His career has spanned governmental and investigative reporting for daily newspapers in the Northwest Indiana Region and 16 years in a global internal communications role for a Fortune 500 professional services company. Additionally, he is co-owner of the Lake County Corn Dogs minor league baseball franchise, located in Crown Point, Indiana. In his spare time, he enjoys writing and recording his own music, oil painting, biking, volleyball, golf and cheering on the Corn Dogs.