Don't wait for educational process to close jobs gap: Hire women

Any lack of resources, particularly skilled workers, is a negative impact on security

The favorite book of my soon to be 5-year-old daughter is, "Rosie Revere Engineer." It's a brilliant and inspiring tale of a young girl, Rosie, who wishes to be a great engineer. That idea never crossed my mind when I was 5, 10, 15, even 20 years old. Math was always a foreign language to me, one that in hindsight I feel I could have mastered if I had different role models.

Today, though, young women have incredible opportunities for growth in fields I never knew existed in my youth. Women are such a commodity to the digital enterprise and cyber security, that companies see them as the answer to the job gap issue. 

With the volume and cost of enterprise security breaches on the rise, business leaders continue to struggle with a lack of access to skilled security resources – this was actually the number one concern of Security Operations Center leaders interviewed by HPE for a recent report. Filling these IT security positions is essential for enterprises to better defend and protect their organizations.

"Less is being done," said Jewel Timpe, senior manager of HPE Security Research Communications at Hewlett Packard Enterprise. The enterprise is impacted in every way one might expect. 

Criminals have the advantage of only having to look for a pathway in. Enterprises, though, are burdened with having to try to prevent every possible attack and protect the crown jewels all while being short on the qualified people who can defend, detect, and respond to emerging threats. It's a complete disadvantage, but not one that is as formidable as it might sound.

Investing in the future by training today's students is one way to grow tomorrow's workforce. Going one step further, and nurturing the skills of women, who represent only 10% of the security industry, is a fruitful resource that many should be tapping into.

HPE just announced 16 new recipients of the third annual Scholarship for Women Studying Information Security (SWSIS), a collegiate scholarship program that supports women pursuing careers in the IT security industry. In collaboration with Applied Computer Security Associates (ACSA) and the Computing Research Association's Committee on the Status of Women in Computing Research (CRA-W), HPE has supported 46 women through academic funding and hands-on internship opportunities since the program’s inception in an effort to proactively address the industry-wide talent and gender gap. 

Three years ago, HPE jumped in on the opportunity to fund scholarships for women offered through ACSA. "We put up money for scholarships to help fund either bachelors or higher level masters degrees," said Timpe.

Creating an environment that welcomes these women, though, is about much more than funding. "What we have done internally is work to develop a program where we engage with these scholars each year. It's done virtually as they are studying all over the country." she continued.

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Throughout the year of funding, "We give them access to women in HPE who work closely with them in training and helping them find out more about their paths, said Timpe.

As the students grow in their academics, they also are provided with some more veteran women in the industry who engage as mentors. These security newbs in training have access to their mentors, with whom they will often then work with in internship programs. 

The investment is a win-win for both the enterprise and the students receiving the scholarships. Having learned through hands-on training with women at HPE, these young women will make the strongest candidates for recruitment once they graduate. By funding the scholarships and building these personal and professional relationships, HPE is in essence closing its own jobs gap. 

The cyber security industry, though, is not a place only for those women who are interested in IT or computer science. Timpe said, "My background wasn’t IT or computers, and that’s what I’m trying to get others to realize. There are skills you have in compliance or any number of things. You can apply that specific knowledge and have on the job training. We need people with a wide variety of backgrounds and skills."

The scholarship is a great way to attack it on both ends, said Timpe. "It offers an understanding of the breadth of what they can accomplish and give us in the industry exposure to new ideas."

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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