By Victor Ochieng
The United States Department of Labor recently published a report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), showing how seriously underrepresented African-Americans are in the cybersecurity field. The data shows that Americans of African descent account for a mere 3% of the field.
From the BLS’ figures, we can deduce that there is something seriously wrong. The Bureau publishes employment data, with their latest report covering the period 2014-2024 having been published on BIS.gov in December last year.
According to the Bureau, the security information analyst jobs are expected to post an 18% growth through 2024. The security information analysts work to thwart efforts by hackers to gain illegal access to corporate networks.
The damage done by hackers is humongous. In 2015, for example, Lloyds of London reported that across the globe, businesses lost an estimated $400 billion to cybercrime. Digitization has taken a center stage in our lives, and with its continued increase, Juniper Research recently estimated that by 2019, data breaches will cost a high of $2.1 trillion across the globe. This is about five times the 2015 estimates.
BLS data shows that the average pay for information security analysts for 2014 stood at $88,890 a year. To qualify for the position, one needs a four year college degree. The field has an estimated 1 million job openings in 2016. Once one is absorbed in the security information analyst field, they’re presented with several opportunities for upward mobility.
Exposing youngsters to cybersecurity is an avenue to pursuing relevant college programs and eventually landing a security information analyst job amongst other available positions in the field. Currently, U.S. high school students have access to diverse programs, which expose them and help them learn more about cybersecurity and its importance. But even as they go through these programs, producing the best in the field requires the concerted efforts of guidance counselors, teachers, and parents.
The concern over lack of diversity in the cybersecurity center has been raised before, and there are organizations working to promote opportunities in the field for minorities. International Colloquium for Minorities In Cyber Security (MICS) and The International Consortium of Minority Cybersecurity Professionals (ICMCP), for example, have been on the forefront of working to expand absorption of African Americans among other minorities within the Cybersecurity sector. These two organizations provide mentoring programs, technical training opportunities, community outreach, and scholarship opportunities.