This week is CyberUK, the UK’s flagship cyber security event which we hosted here in Wales last year. Wales has many strengths in relation to cyber, one of which is our close partnerships and clusters which encourage diversity across the sector.
We have invited Clare Johnson, from Women in Wales Cyber Cluster, to write a guest blog about diversity in the cyber sector.
Wales has a thriving cyber ecosystem with one of the largest cyber clusters in the UK, and is home to the Women in Cyber Wales network. Networks like these are vitally important not only to help businesses improve their cyber security posture, but also in supporting and developing a sufficiently strong talent pipeline into the sector.
Gender diversity in the cyber sector
In 2022, DSIT (previously DCMS) estimated an annual cyber workforce gap of approximately 14,100 people. This figure takes into account the current workforce, numbers entering and leaving the workforce and the estimated increase in cyber related roles. Yet amongst this workforce with its worrying gaps, only 16% are women (NCSC, 2022). Add to that a figure of some 70% of women working in tech feeling like they need to work harder and prove themselves because of their gender (McKinsey, 2023) and it’s clear there is still a long way to go. Yet increasing the number of women entering (and importantly, staying in) the sector could greatly reduce this workforce gap.
The reasons for having a diverse workforce are compelling. KPMG (2022) suggest that diversity increases productivity and performance, improves innovation, leads to better decision making and attracts better talent. But it is not enough to have an equal proportion of men to women in your business. The roles and rewards also need to be equal, so if your technical workforce or your senior team is predominantly filled by men then it may be time to consider how you can improve diversity. Support networks are critical in this endeavour, facilitating connections for businesses looking to recruit more women to their teams, to ask for advice on gender diversity and to highlight opportunities that might be of interest such as funding, competitions and events. Recently, we have begun working with a Young Women in Cyber Wales network which we hopes will bridge the gap between school, university and employment. Many women leave the industry because they feel unsupported, and this can be greatly reduced by having suitable networks, good opportunities to progress and flexible working conditions, things that we are always happy to talk to businesses about.
Women in Cyber Wales Network
The Women in Cyber Wales network was founded in 2018 in response to a visible lack of women at cyber gatherings. With just 16 women attending our first meeting, we now have over 200 members. Most are from Wales, but when we ran our meetings online throughout Covid we extended our reach to the whole of the UK and beyond. The network provides a platform to celebrate the work that women are doing in the sector by hosting female speakers working at senior levels. We occasionally discuss the challenges we face, but we prefer to focus on the positives and where there are issues, to discuss how these have been resolved and what we have learned from them.
A major strength in Wales is the strong ecosystem that exists within this sector. It can take just a few hops to find the right person to speak to on any cyber related issue whether from a technical cyber security related perspective, or for more generic questions on recruitment or skills development. And we are proud of our reach not just within Wales but also internationally. Last year, Women in Cyber Wales were delighted to run a networking breakfast at CyberUK in Newport in 2022, and we are looking forward to building on this event at CyberUK 2023 in Belfast. Indeed, Wales is leading the way in highlighting the need for gender diversity in the cyber security sector, something we are very proud of.
Over the course of CyberUK, we’ll be highlighting some of the strengths for cyber in Wales so follow us on @WGEconomy to see these. We’ll also be publishing an update on the Cyber Action Plan on the Digital and Data blog in the coming weeks.
DCMS, (2022), Cyber security skills in the UK labour market 2022
NCSC, (2022), Leading women in tech urge schoolgirls to take on the UK’s flagship cyber security contest
McKinsey & Company (2023), Women in tech: The best bet to solve Europe’s talent shortage
KPMG (2022), Inclusion, Diversity and Equity
Sources with links