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Diversity in the Cyber Workforce: Addressing the Data Gap

By Irving Lachow, Ph.D.

Supported by the Hewlett Foundation and in partnership with Aspen Digital, Diversity in the Cyber Workforce provides recommendations to address the challenges in producing a demographic baseline of the nation’s cyber workforce.

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Cyber practitioners and national security officials often express alarm at the absence of diversity among cyber specialists in both the public and private sectors. U.S.-based businesses and government agencies face a shortage of between 350,000 and 600,000 cybersecurity professionals and 56 percent of companies believe that their staffing shortfalls put them at moderate or extreme risk. Increasing the diversity, equity, and inclusion of the cyber workforce can help address this workforce shortage while simultaneously having a positive impact on business growth and performance.

These benefits carry over to the security realm. A diverse workforce can contribute to a better understanding of user behavior and the ever-evolving threat landscape. Additionally, diverse representation can help organizations identify and address implicit biases that may be impacting their ability to hire and retain talent, develop new products and services, and understand market demand across a broader demographic base.

Supported by a Hewlett Foundation grant, this report examines the challenges associated with producing a demographic baseline of the nation’s cyber workforce. MITRE partnered with Aspen Digital—a program of the Aspen Institute—to carry out the study based on a literature review, workshops, and expert interviews. The report describes the benefits of having a diverse cyber workforce and analyzing the current state of knowledge regarding the diversity of that workforce. It identifies the most significant challenges associated with the collection, analysis, and distribution of cyber workforce diversity data and provides insights based on research and inputs from key stakeholders. The report provides actionable recommendations to address the challenges and leverage the insights gained from the study.