A person wearing glasses and a white blouse is standing behind a podium giving a presentation on cyber security. They are holding a small device and gesturing with their other hand. There is a microphone on the podium and a blue backdrop in the background.

By Charly Davis 

Inclusion and diversity within cyber security are far from a negative picture. I genuinely believe that cyber is a much stronger advocate for demographic inclusivity, especially for individuals with neurodiverse conditions, than most other professions. Based on my personal experience with friends and family members, I have noticed that the cyber industry provides a safe space for individuals whose neurodiversity is the exact definition of their strengths. This is in contrast to other industries where neurodiversity is often viewed as a weakness or something that needs to be managed. I am eternally grateful for the inclusion afforded to individuals in cyber security. 

More than any other career I can think of, the benefits of a diverse team in cyber are not just understood. They are a fundamental prerequisite. To think like potential attackers who come from a vast array of diverse backgrounds with an even broader spectrum of motivations, a cyber defence team needs to have a vast set of backgrounds, skills, experiences, logic attribution and, in many cases, even cultural, religious and political framework familiarity. A cyber team that lacks inclusivity and diversity is not just poorer for it; it renders itself less effective and potentially even no longer fit for purpose! 

There has been a noticeable shift in attitudes towards cyber when I have had conversations with girls in secondary-level education who are interested in STEM careers. This change can be attributed to our society’s overall maturity and the evolution of imagery associated with cyber security. The traditional image of a man in a hoodie or mask has been replaced with more collaborative and diverse representations of security operations centres and technical and corporate environments. This shift in imagery has enabled a new generation of cyber enthusiasts to emerge. 

Despite our progress, we must continue to strive for better. I want to end this blog with a conversation I had on a train to London for a cyber dinner. I sat next to a young man reading a book on Python Tips and Tricks, which he had laid out over his applied mathematics textbooks for Uni. We struck up a conversation, and I asked if his maths degree involved programming. He said no and mentioned that it was a personal interest book he read in his spare time alongside his degree in Maths and Data Science. (Wow!) I was impressed by his intelligence and eagerness to learn. He asked me what I was up to, and I told him I was typing this blog, which led to a conversation about cyber security and his friend’s interest in this field. I asked him if he would consider a career in cyber, mentioning that our industry would benefit from a great mind like his in our ranks. His response took me from being elated as I wrote about my personal experience bubble to respectfully returning to earth with a bump as he said no. He mentioned he had looked into it after a career fair, but he couldn’t see any faces like his in this field and that it wasn’t an interesting prospect for him. 

This conversation reminded me that inclusivity means so much more than welcoming people from all walks of life, genders, backgrounds, and experiences. It goes beyond equality to equity, and it means ensuring people like the young man I met on the train can see themselves in cyber and have representation in this field. We need to work hard within our field to do more work to really inspire inclusion and representation from all walks of life so that future generations all feel that they can see themselves and a future within our industry. 

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