Cisco launches new training scheme to bolster gender diversity in security

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Cisco has unveiled a new training scheme aimed at improving gender diversity across the UK’s cyber security industry. 

The Cisco Cyber Camps, which are being run in partnership with the Open University, will offer female and non-binary students an additional route into the security industry, the firm said. 

The Cyber Camps initiative is aimed specifically at individuals aged between 13 and 19 who are considering pursuing a career in the cyber security industry.  

As part of the initiative, participants will be given practical advice and training, as well as information on how to join the industry. The scheme will be supported by a range of technology experts and female cyber security practitioners currently working in the industry.  

Elizabeth Barr, head of Cisco’s Networking Academy for the UK and Ireland, told ITPro the program will help individuals to “explore new skill sets” and provide “clear routes to entry and progression” within the cyber security industry.  

“One of the major benefits of the Cisco Networking Academy learning pathways is that they begin with a low-commitment approach of an introductory six-hour course taken at the student's own pace, and then [are offered] the option of continuing with more advanced courses aligned to industry certifications.”

The launch of the training scheme comes in direct response to concerns about female representation in the UK’s security industry, according to Barr.  

Statistics from Cybersecurity Ventures show that women comprise just a quarter of the country’s cyber security workforce. 

The issue of representation and diversity has been identified as a key challenge for the security industry in recent years, and one that comes amidst growing concerns over a widening cyber security skills gap across the country.  

“We wanted to address the pressing challenge of underrepresentation of women in tech,” Barr said. “By targeting the 'leaky talent pipe' at the GCSE stage, we make our programme accessible and easy to integrate with students’ studies.”

“The goal of Cisco Cyber Camps is to offer a glimpse into a potential career in cyber for this age group, creating an inclusive space for diverse learners with different learning styles, and breaking down gender barriers to foster an environment that promotes equal opportunities.”

Analysis from the UK government’s Cyber Security Skills in the UK Labor Market report, published earlier this year, also revealed a 50% cyber security skills gap in UK businesses. 

Barr told ITPro that addressing gender disparity in the UK’s security industry will be vital to closing the skills gap and unlocking a valuable talent pipeline for businesses across the country. 


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“The lack of female representation in the industry underlines the need for concerted efforts to build awareness of the possibilities at an earlier age. Bridging the gender gap in STEM fields will lead to a greater diversity of thought in workplaces, which is critical,” she said. 

“It is crucial that employers ensure that inclusivity is embedded throughout the recruitment process. This may involve job descriptions that emphasize soft skills rather than detailed technical skills, attracting a broader pool of potential talent.”

Cisco’s announcement follows the expansion of the CyberEPQ program last week, which also aims to improve diversity across the cyber security industry.  

The program, led by the Chartered Institute of Information Security (CIISec) will enroll hundreds of students from disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds in the coming months in a bid to create a more diverse cyber workforce.  

Ross Kelly
News and Analysis Editor

Ross Kelly is ITPro's News & Analysis Editor, responsible for leading the brand's news output and in-depth reporting on the latest stories from across the business technology landscape. Ross was previously a Staff Writer, during which time he developed a keen interest in cyber security, business leadership, and emerging technologies.

He graduated from Edinburgh Napier University in 2016 with a BA (Hons) in Journalism, and joined ITPro in 2022 after four years working in technology conference research.

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