Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Expert: Diversifying Cybersecurity Starts with 'Targeted Recruiting'

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Expert: Diversifying Cybersecurity Starts with 'Targeted Recruiting'

Article excerpt

In order to diversify the growing field of cybersecurity, employers must do more "targeted recruiting" at colleges and universities that are diverse themselves.

That advice comes from Debora Plunkett, a retired National Security Agency executive and adjunct cybersecurity professor at the University of Maryland University College, or UMUC.

"It just defies logic that if we're trying to increase diversity that we would aim our recruiting efforts at a university that is not diverse," Plunkett said.

"It doesn't mean that you don't go there," Plunkett said of institutions of higher education that lack diversity. "But it means if you're trying to get a diverse population, you make sure you go to places where there are diverse candidates."

Plunkett made her remarks recently at a New America forum titled "Embracing Innovation and Diversity in Cybersecurity." The forum proved a fitting coda for what ended up being a week with a whirlwind of controversy on the issue of diversity in technology.

The controversy ignited in early August when news reports began to appear about a leaked internal memo from Google written by a since-fired scientist at the company who attributed the gender gap in the tech world to biological differences between men and women. The scientist also criticized company programs and classes reserved for specific genders and ethnic groups.

Assessments of the memo--titled "Google's Ideological Echo Chamber"--have varied. Gizmodo referred to it as an "anti-diversity screed" while The Federalist praised it as an effort to "brainstorm ideas about how to make Google a more friendly environment for women without resorting to explicit sex-based discrimination."

Google CEO Sundar Pichai abruptly canceled a companywide town hall meeting on the matter just moments before it was set to begin after some employees' questions were leaked, triggering concerns for their safety.

The forum at New America--scheduled before the Google fiasco took place--offered a fresh perspective on the issue of diversity in the tech world from an all-women panel that shared personal stories of how they made forays into cybersecurity.

Plunkett, speaking in an interview with Diverse after the forum, said the Google memo "struck a nerve" with her.

"I just think anytime you ascribe characteristics to an entire class of people, regardless of whether it's by gender or race or ethnicity or culture, then it's biased," Plunkett said.

Asked if she accepted the memo author's argument that he was actually trying to fight bias, Plunkett said: "It might have been his intent. …

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