Increasing diversity can plug Australia’s cyberskills gap

Eager cybersecurity staff are out there—if employers just give them a chance.

Team member extends all hands in for a huddle. [unity / teamwork / trust / diversity / inclusion]
Prostock Studio / Getty Images

Representation of women in Australia’s cybersecurity industry may be increasing from a low baseline, but boosting the overall diversity of the workforce—including but not limited to women—remains a key challenge as grassroots initiatives work to counter what one industry player calls “fairly significant barriers to inclusion” that the industry has created over the years.

Despite recent formal efforts to improve outreach to high-school students, for example, engaging young people has been difficult for an industry that has struggled to shake the image that cybersecurity is dominated by hoodie-wearing basement dwellers. “Our industry has placed some fairly significant barriers to inclusion in IT security,” said Phillip Jenkinson, CEO of Brisbane-based Indigenous IT consulting firm Baidam Solutions.

For an Australian industry that is said to need 17,000 additional workers by 2026—and a global shortfall that recent figures suggest is still getting worse—new approaches and honest introspection have become crucial to remedying the real obstacles that are keeping talented people away from the industry.

Women at the ready to tackle cybersecurity

Despite her interest, engagement with the industry had proven difficult for 16-year-old Tamara Baker, one of numerous cybersecurity industry enthusiasts who joined a roundtable at AustCyber’s recent Cyber Week 2020 online event to share their experiences coming into the industry from nontechnical backgrounds.

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