CyberBase Seeks to Close Gap in National Cybersecurity Talent Shortage by Increasing Black Representation 

Key Insights:

  • One-hundred fifty corporations, leaders, and universities have signed a pledge to increase the diversity of speakers and experts in cybersecurity.
  • Craig Newmark Philanthropies has provided funding to CyberBase, aimed to support the growth of Black representation within the industry.
  • The initiative’s mission is to help close talent gaps for the anticipated 3.5MM job openings in cyber slated by 2025.

Despite boasting one million cybersecurity workers in the United States, over 700,000 jobs went unfilled as of April 2022, according to data from CyberSeek. By as soon as 2025, there are expected to be 3.5 million job openings in cybersecurity, but the pipeline to fulfill those roles will lag. Corporations, governments, and nonprofit groups are attempting to address the crisis.  

CyberBase, a collaboration between #ShareTheMicInCyber, a movement to address issues stemming from systemic racism in cybersecurity, and the R Street Institute, a nonprofit and nonpartisan public policy research organization, aims to increase opportunities for Black professionals in cybersecurity and help fill the employment gap. 

Launched in October 2021 and funded by Craig Newmark Philanthropies, CyberBase curates a growing list of over 50 Black cybersecurity experts that is open to recruiters, policymakers, media, and more to spotlight underrepresented cybersecurity professionals. 

CyberBase furthers the mission of the Making Space Pledge, an initiative also run by the R Street Institute that aims to increase the diversity of speakers and experts in the cybersecurity space.

“There’s no reason for someone to say ‘We can’t find someone to speak on this panel. We couldn’t find diverse leaders in cybersecurity for some reason.’ Well now you have a resource that you can go to and we feature a number of different professionals and they each have experience at different levels,” Jumoke Dada, project manager for Making Space and a technologist for over 15 years, told The Plug.

The network covers the public, private, and nonprofit sectors, and opens up cybersecurity professionals on its list for national policy discussions, conferences and other public-facing opportunities. Individuals looking to connect with these experts can filter their search by highest level of education, years of work experience in cyber, certifications, location, and more.

A Work in Progress

CyberBase nods to a larger systemic issue facing the cybersecurity industry — the deficit of Black workers. Nine percent of the U.S. cybersecurity workforce identify as Black, according to a 2018 study by (ISC)² and the International Consortium of Minority Cybersecurity Professionals, whereas Black Americans made up 13 percent of the labor force in 2018, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Several trends of support are underway. Cyber initiatives that have been effective in addressing the growing employment gap in the cybersecurity industry have leveraged talent at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).  

In 2015, the Department of Energy dedicated $25 million to a five-year initiative to build up cybersecurity education at 13 HBCUs and to diversify the larger cyber workforce. By the end of the initiative, all of the schools offered a cybersecurity concentration and many added a cybersecurity bachelor’s degree.

More recently, Advancing Minorities’ Interest in Engineering (AMIE), a nonprofit coalition of corporations, government agencies and HBCUs partnered up with Microsoft, Raytheon Technologies, and Abbott to prepare a diverse pipeline of students for cybersecurity careers. Pilots are underway at four HBCUs: Hampton University, North Carolina A&T State University, Prairie View A&M University, and Virginia State University.

“When we talk about increasing the pipeline of cybersecurity professionals, [HBCUs] are critical in order for us to do that,” Veronica L. Nelson, AMIE’s executive director told The Plug. “I look at them as our diamonds. They are a critical, untapped resource of diverse talent.” 

On the policy end, a 2020 policy report from the bipartisan Congressional Cyberspace Solarium Commission urged the federal workforce to ensure cyber development policies and programs focus on recruiting and retaining underrepresented cyber professionals. 

Building for the Future

CyberBase is working to grow its list of cybersecurity experts as well as partners signing the Making Space pledge. Roughly 150 think tanks, universities, foundations, and corporate partners, such as Twitter, GirlSecurity, Columbia University SIPA, Pennsylvania Commission for Women, and others have signed the pledge already.

On the horizon for the CyberBase initiative is to build out a pledge-accountability program with existing and new coalition partners, and to engage with the Congressional Black Caucus and HBCUs for diversity-related programs, policies, and legislation. 

“[We want] people to know who [these professionals are] and tap into them and their expertise during a time when diversity and the need for more talent is an issue,” Dada, Making Space’s project manager, said. “You have people who are doing the work. It’s important that they are seen and heard.”

Alesia Bani

Alesia Bani is a writer and journalist from Philadelphia and The Plug’s Innovation Reporter covering the Black tech ecosystem in Philadelphia. She previously worked for the Institutional Diversity office at her alma mater Temple University and has a background in reporting on identity, DEI and local government.