Nonprofit launches new programs to increase diversity in cybersecurity industry

Cybersecurity group pivots from speaking engagements and scholarships to analyzing skill gaps and connecting candidates with employers.

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The International Consortium of Minority Cybersecurity Professionals is helping women and Black people get more training and speaking engagements to bring more diversity to cybersecurity.

Image: Julief514/Getty Images/iStockphoto

Larry Whiteside Jr. wants to solve the talent shortage in cybersecurity and open up economic opportunities to women, Black people, and Latinx people. Whiteside was introduced to cybersecurity as an officer in the US Air Force and has held security roles with Lynx Technology Partners, LCRA, and Greenway Health. As the latest president of the International Consortium of Minority Cybersecurity Professionals, he has a new list of priorities for the non-profit.

When he co-founded the organization in 2014, the focus was holding events and giving scholarships. After several years of listening to the cybersecurity industry talk about diversity but make little progress, he realized it was time for a new agenda.

"From my perspective we're not moving the needle fast enough, and our mission in its most basic form is butts in seats: More minorities and women in cybersecurity," Whiteside said. "We also don't want to forget about people already in the field and help them get to senior levels."

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Whiteside also sees ICMCP as a mechanism to close the wealth gap between white people and Black people which has not changed for more than 50 years.

"What we're doing is going to help make the field better and change the narrative related to the socio-economic injustices going on and the economic gap," he said. "In cybersecurity, you make really good money and  have a comfortable life."

According to a June 2020 article in The Washington Post, you would have to combine the net worth of 11.5 Black households to get the net worth of a typical white U.S. household. As of 2016, the median household wealth for a white family was $149,703 and for a Black family it was $13,024.

Whiteside is developing three programs to bring more diversity to the cybersecurity industry and  to start closing that wealth gap.

Gap assessment and training

The first project is an assessment tool for students and professionals to identify skill gaps and get the appropriate training to level up.

"We have a tool that aligns to the NICE Cybersecurity workforce framework from NIST so people will be able to pick a role and do a skills assessment to see if they need training for a particular job," he said.

ICMCP is working with training organizations to offer discounted courses for a range of technical skills. Some classes will be free, depending on the topic, and ICMCP is developing two pricing models, one for professionals working in the field and one for students.

"We'll also have webinars about soft skills such as how to speak and how to write and other things that you need in the security field," he said.

Creating a speaker's bureau

Instead of hosting an annual conference to highlight ICMCP members, Whiteside wants to switch the focus to getting members on stage at other conferences looking for diverse talent.

"We're going to compile a list of minorities and women who can speak on cybersecurity," he said. "We want events to pick somebody based on their credentials and expertise."

The ICMCP site will have a speakers bureau to help members win speaking engagements. Members also can submit posts to the ICMCP blog to highlight their expertise.

Building local chapters

The final element of the new strategy is local chapters. ICMCP now has chapters in New York, Columbus, Chicago, Atlanta, and the Bay Area. Whiteside plans to expand to six more cities this year and to build relationships with high schools and universities. The goal is to make ICMCP the best source for cybersecurity professionals for companies looking to hire women and people of color.

"We want to build the pipeline for companies and universities and groom candidates for positions that will exist locally," he said.

Whiteside is recruiting corporate sponsors to support this networking and offering co-branding on ICMCP webinars and access to the non-profit's job board.

"We are helping companies understand how to support the mission of what we're doing as we're building these new programs," he said.

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