Scholarship Winner: Chanel Hicks Believes Cybersecurity Needs More Diversity

Category: IT careers, Professional development, Scholarships
November 14, 2018

Chanel Hicks has spent her entire career around information technology, but she only “stumbled” into the cybersecurity side of the business two years ago. One of the first things she noticed was the lack of diversity.

“When I arrived, it was an entirely new world, far less diverse than any other technology company I’d worked for in the past,” said Hicks, the winner of InfoSec Institute’s 2018 Diversity in Cybersecurity Scholarship. “Two years later there are still not enough people that look and think like me solving cybersecurity challenges, and I’d like to change that.”

Winning the Diversity Scholarship

Hick’s said most of her cybersecurity knowledge so far has come through mentorship, but that will change next year when she enrolls in her first training course.

As the winner of the Diversity in Cybersecurity Scholarship, Hicks earned free enrollment into three award-winning Flex Pro certification training courses:

She joins 11 other winners and finalists across four InfoSec Institute scholarships: Women in Cybersecurity Scholarship, Diversity in Cybersecurity Scholarship, Military Cybersecurity Scholarship and Undergraduate Cybersecurity Scholarship. The four winners and eight finalist will receive a combined $130,000 in training opportunities over the next two years.

Increasing Diversity of Thought

Diversifying the workforce is one of the goals of this year’s National Cybersecurity Career Awareness Week. Minorities make up just 26% of the cybersecurity workforce in the U.S., according to the 2017 Global Information Security Workforce Study. In addition, minorities tend to earn less than their Caucasian counterparts, despite having higher levels of education on average. The starkest contrast from the study is women of color, who average $10,000 less than their Caucasian male peers.

But diversity is about more than just equal representation and pay, said Hicks.

“It’s actually pretty scary to look around the room, and there’s no one that looks like you or no one that’s infusing different perspectives and different ideas. It’s not just diversity in terms of gender or race. It’s diversity in thought. A lot of times it’s the same voices, the same approaches to doing things and thinking about things.”

Hicks said she is grateful for her peers, but they tend to see things through the same lens and rely on technology and faulty logic to try to overcome what is ultimately a human challenge. She wants to build her knowledge and experience so she can add her voice to the discussion and become a valid contributor.

Hicks’ Cybersecurity Career Path

Having focused more on the business and strategy sides of technology, Hicks believes she has a unique perspective. Among her goals is to help the non-profits she works with better secure their data.

“In the nonprofit world, they don’t have the resources, the knowledge, the support to even tackle what cybersecurity will look like for them,” Hicks said. “It’s not something that’s on the top of the list when they think of things that are important to them. It should be — because often nonprofits serve the most vulnerable people and communities.”

In particular, she is fascinated by the intersection of cybersecurity and public policy.

“I’d love to sit at that intersection and inform what policies look like going forward for cybersecurity and data,” Hicks said. “I am incredibly excited by the prospect of using my leadership and strategy experience to solve cyber problems and usher diverse thinking into the arena. I want to be a voice and example for other women, demonstrating that all backgrounds and experiences spell success in this industry.”

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