Google, Twitter back #ShareTheMicInCyber campaign to expand cybersecurity industry

The movement's founder is partnering with a think tank to create new positions and work on diversifying the cybersecurity industry.

The #ShareTheMicInCyber campaign that took over the Twitter pages of the country's cybersecurity leaders is being formalized thanks to a partnership between the movement's founders and a think tank. 

Camille Stewart, co-founder of #ShareTheMicInCyber, said #ShareTheMicInCyber will be working with New America on a diversity initiative funded by Google, Twitter, and Craig Newmark Philanthropies. 

"We are excited to expand the impact of #ShareTheMicInCyber by creating a fellowship that will allow for sustained and deeper impact," Stewart said. 

A fellowship will be created for 2022 that will be centered around researching diversity and inclusion in the cybersecurity industry, nurturing a stable of mentors and organizing professional development activities. 

"In an environment where there are so many cyber positions unfilled and we are facing cyber threats that are increasing in complexity and scale we must capitalize on the innovation and understanding of people that diversity brings to get ahead of threats and fill staffing gaps," Stewart, who works as global head of product security strategy at Google, told ZDNet. 

"Intentional investment in changing the face of the industry, elevate and invest in diverse talent, promote diverse talent, change hiring and retention practices to allow for nontraditional backgrounds and experiences, and create and inclusive empathy-driven cultures where everyone can thrive and differences are celebrated."

Google vice president of security Royal Hansen said in a blog post that the company was funding the first year of the fellowship and pledging to a total of five years of funding.

"As modern cybersecurity threats evolve into new and more dangerous attacks -- and as the industry seeks skilled workers -- we need an arsenal of different ideas that represent all backgrounds. The #ShareTheMicinCyber Fellowship will amplify diverse talent and bring new voices and ideas to the industry and ultimately make us all safer and more secure," Hansen said. 

She said she was inspired to start the campaign in the national security and cybersecurity industry after seeing a Share The Mic Now movement for another industry on Instagram.

She tweeted about it and eventually was contacted by Harvard Kennedy School's Lauren Zabierek, who decided to join the effort and helped Stewart host a similar campaign through her organization NextGen NatSec in celebration of Juneteenth 2020. 

"At the same time Lauren and I worked to create #ShareTheMicInCyber. The first campaign happened June 26, 2020 and built off the learnings from the campaign I hosted the week prior," Stewart explained.

On the heels of that, Stewart and Zabierek began extending invitations to anyone they had connections to, eventually getting the attention of a member of the NSA Cyber comms team through a tweet. 

Stewart also contacted CISA Director Jen Easterly, who responded immediately and urged her team at CISA to make it happen. IST contacted them in the hopes of joining the campaign.

CISA strategist Ayan Islam took over Easterly's account, Google security engineer Talya Parker tweeted from the account of NSA cybersecurity director Rob Joyce and Institute for Security and Technology CEO Philip Reiner handed his accounts over to Hope Goins, staff director for the US House of Representatives Committee on Homeland Security. 

The women spoke about their experiences in the tech industry, the barriers they had to face as Black women and ways other women of color can break into the industry.  

"The initiative is going well and continues to grow in reach and impact. Not only is the campaign reaching more people each time -- sparking a much needed conversation about systemic racism in cyber, broadening networks, and engaging cyber employers -- we have partnerships that allow us to address the impacts of systemic racism," Stewart said. 

"Our partnership with WISP to create a scholarship for participants is helping to break down financial barriers. Cyberbase, which is launching in partnership with RStreet Institute, is combating the notion that diverse practitioners aren't already in the industry by giving companies access to a database of Black cyber talent."

Stewart added that the partnership with New America would make what was discussed on Friday a reality, allowing the movement to evolve into actionable opportunities for cybersecurity professionals of color. 

The fellowship will give someone the opportunity to "conduct policy research and analysis, explore critical cyber security issues, and explore questions of diversity and the human side of cybersecurity."

"Our focus on amplifying and investing in middle career talent is designed to be a beacon for newcomers and a pipeline for future leaders," Stewart said. "The industry investment in this initiative is a recognition that investment in a diverse workforce at all levels will better equip us to meet the ever-evolving and increasingly complex security challenges we face as a society."

Peter Singer, senior fellow at New America and co-coordinator of the #ShareTheMicInCyber partnership, said the need to build greater diversity in cybersecurity brings together national security, industry, community, and equity needs.

"It is the literal definition of a win for all," Singer said. "We couldn't be more excited and proud to join in taking #ShareTheMicInCyber to the next needed level." 

Stewart and Zabierek said the latest partnership is only the beginning of the conversations that need to be had about diversity, racism and equity in the cybersecurity industry. They urged other companies to get involved in the campaign and find a way to support the initiative. 

"The outcomes that we've seen from the four #ShareTheMicInCyber campaigns -- to include strengthening and expanding networks, deepening inclusion, and connecting people with more job and professional opportunities in cybersecurity show us that this movement must be rooted and fully resourced so that we can grow its impact," Zabierek said.