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Microsoft Expanded Cybersecurity Skills Development Initiative Focuses on Women

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Microsoft has launched a series of new partnerships with organizations to provide women worldwide with the necessary skills to enter the cybersecurity workforce. There continues to be a shortage of cybersecurity professionals in the market.

The collaborations include arrangements with non-profits, foundations, advocacy groups and international unions, all of which the vendor considers fertile grounds to skill women to work in the cybersecurity field.

Microsoft Partnerships

The following are partnerships Microsoft has forged to facilitate more women entering the cybersecurity field:

  • WOMCY, a nonprofit focused on growing opportunities for women in cybersecurity in Latin America.
  • Women4Cyber, a foundation working to promote and support the participation of women in cybersecurity in Europe.
  • The International Telecommunications Union, an agency of the United Nations, supporting their Women in Cyber Mentorship Program with emphasis on the Middle East, Africa, and Asia.
  • WiCyS, a global community of women, allies, and advocates dedicated to advancing women in cybersecurity.

Demand for Cybersecurity Skills Continues to Rise

Kate Behncken, Microsoft Philanthropies corporate vice president, stated in a blog post:

“Demand for cybersecurity skills has grown by an average of 35% over the past year. And in some countries, like Brazil, demand has grown as much as 76%. We simply don’t have enough people with the skills to defend against cybersecurity attacks, putting people, businesses, and governments around the world at risk."

The need for more skilled cybersecurity professionals is “huge”, particularly among underserved demographic populations, Behncken said. Women comprise roughly 25% of the global cybersecurity workforce so “it’s more important than ever to encourage and empower women to pursue these careers,” she said.

Microsoft also said it has expanded its Cybersecurity Skills Initiative to Argentina, Chile, Indonesia, and Spain, and is delivering grants to nonprofits to help skill people for the cybersecurity workforce. “As a result, our expanded strategy will include a community of practice to support the continued growth of our nonprofit partners,” said Behncken.

Lessons Learned: Diversity Gaps in Developing Skills

The vendor now counts skills development associations with 28 countries around the world. In building its cybersecurity skills training programs, Microsoft has learned some things along the way, Behncken said.

  • Addressing diversity gaps requires intentionality in program design and execution.
  • We must create more inclusive and supportive learning environments, and we see greater success in building confidence and soft skills among women with cohorts that are majority women.
  • Learners benefit most when training programs lead to industry-recognized certifications, and we see increased success when training organizations work directly with employers.
  • Nonprofits, higher education, and other skilling organizations relish the opportunity to learn from each other through facilitated exchanges, and bringing them together to share best practices helps scale impact.

Behncken noted that:

“We know we can’t solve this problem ourselves. This problem is too large and too urgent. We need governments, the private sector, and the education sector working together to solve it."

D. Howard Kass

D. Howard Kass is a contributing editor to MSSP Alert. He brings a career in journalism and market research to the role. He has served as CRN News Editor, Dataquest Channel Analyst, and West Coast Senior Contributing Editor at Channelnomics. As the CEO of The Viewpoint Group, he led groundbreaking market research.