Advancing an inclusive, diverse security industry

It’s no secret that lack of diversity in corporate America is a well-documented problem and improvements have been slow. To help improve female representation in the cybersecurity industry, Google teamed up with Women in Cybersecurity (WiCyS) and SANS Institute a year ago to establish the Security Training Scholarship Program.

The multi-stage security training program set participants on a path to launch and advance their careers in cybersecurity through skills development, introducing them to fundamental cybersecurity concepts with interactive challenges like Capture the Flag (CTF) and the SANS CyberStart Game, which introduces topics such as Linux, web attacks, programming, forensics, and more. Mentors and peers guide the participants through each stage of the program and top qualifiers then graduate and receive access to the SANS foundational security training courses, which readies and prepares these women for their first roles in the security industry. The goal is to get them employed in cybersecurity within the next 1.5 years and to create a powerful network of women in the field – in essence, drawing more women to the industry and helping to close the talent gap.

As the inaugural program comes to an end, we are proud to report that its overall impact includes:

  • 112 people received training-based scholarship
  • 15 Full Scholarship Recipients received the full course training, which includes:
    • CyberStart Game and SANS BootUp CTF
    • SANS SEC275 Foundations & Exam
    • SANS 401 Security Essentials Bootcamp and GSEC
    • Elective – SANS SEC504/GCIH, SEC488/GCLD, SEC560/GPEN, or SEC548/GWAPT
  • 24 certifications earned to date with 100% pass rate, with average score on GSEC 90%
  • Since 2013, only 2 people have scored 99% on GIAC Certified Incident Handler (GCIH) one is a WiCyS Scholarship Recipient
  • 1/3 of students were employed in direct information security roles before the program ended
  • 100% of Full Scholarship Recipients intend to have long term careers in information security (15+ years)

Participants praise the program’s strong networking component where they can support one another, share best practices, ask questions from SANS security experts and receive industry insight from members across Google’s security team. As Lynn Dohm, executive director of WiCyS, told us, “You cannot put a price tag on the power of community, and last year’s WiCyS Security Training Program proved just that.”

Here at Google, we are inspired by the dedication and passion the scholarship recipients have shown throughout the program and are eager to see what they accomplish throughout their careers.

Elizabeth Beattie, who was part of the inaugural program told us, “I learned that, as part of my scholarship program with WiCyS, SANS Institute and Google, I’ve been awarded a scholarship to attend the WiCyS 2021 conference in September. In fact, I’ve volunteered to co-author a panel there with some of my amazing fellow recipients. And the crowning achievement? Tonight, I passed my first GIAC certification (GSEC)!”

Despite these great results, we know there is still a lot of work to be done to help educate and develop a more inclusive information security workforce. So this year we are expanding the Security Trainings Scholarship Program to help us reach even more women and generate a steady stream of talent in the field of information security. This expansion would not have been possible without the added support of Facebook and Bloomberg, who have come on board this year to boost this important program.

“We are thrilled to scale the program this year, powered by scholarships from Google, Bloomberg, and Facebook,” said Dohm. “Now, more WiCyS members will be able to dive deep and change the trajectory of their career in less than a year, all within a cohort setting with extensive support and resources provided by mentors and colleagues. That’s what empowerment looks like, and we are thrilled that these three incredible strategic partners of WiCyS can make this happen for not only the WiCyS community, but also for the sake of the cybersecurity workforce at large.”

The next round of scholarships is open through August 2, 2021. To learn more and apply, please visit the WiCyS application page. We can’t wait to meet the next cohort of recipients.