The Thread

Passing the Mic: Introducing New America’s Cybersecurity Fellowship

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Aug. 2, 2022

When it comes to technology and cybersecurity, the United States is at a critical moment. The White House’s recent activity, such as the Federal Cybersecurity Workforce Summit hosted by the Office of the National Cyber Director and the passage of a semiconductor bill through the Senate to reduce reliance on strategic rivals like China, are all indications of how rapidly technology is becoming more central to our futures. But with new innovations come not just new technical vulnerabilities, but also new challenges. Among these is ensuring that we don’t ignore — or even worse, amplify — existing inequities when it comes to the security of the American people.

If the U.S. is to succeed in a digitized, tech-centered future, it must invest in further developing and strengthening the cybersecurity talent pipeline. And, if it is to do so successfully, then diversity, equity, and inclusion must be part of the equation.

The reasons are clear. To address the massive cybersecurity workforce shortage, building a talent pipeline as diverse as our citizenship in the U.S. should be a critical priority. Yet, this is also a matter of equity meeting effectiveness. As one of us pointed out in an article for the Council on Foreign Relations, systemic racism breeds implicit biases, resulting in technical vulnerabilities in our products and information systems and in social divisions that harm U.S. national security and are exploited by our foes in everything from propaganda to information warfare. This is why it is so essential for our fields of study and practice — especially peace and security spaces — to include diverse perspectives. When different voices are gathered around the proverbial table, solutions are more likely to be just, equitable, and inclusive. 

If the U.S. is to succeed in a digitized, tech-centered future, it must invest in further developing and strengthening the cybersecurity talent pipeline.

These forces coming together are what led to #ShareTheMicInCyber. The initiative was sparked through a Twitter exchange between Camille and Lauren who both recognized the need to diversify the cybersecurity field, and saw the workforce shortage as an opportunity to lift up Black cyber practitioners to help lead the field forward. Since 2020, #ShareTheMicInCyber has hosted four Twitter campaigns that have paired Black cybersecurity practitioners with allies to start conversations about race and cybersecurity. Over 300 practitioners and allies in roles across the cybersecurity field, ranging from chief information security officers (CISOs) and government leaders to newly-minted project managers, have engaged in discussions that have drawn in over 100 million impressions online. Our fifth campaign is on October 21st, and there’s still time to sign up to join as a Black practitioner or ally.

While we’ve amplified the profiles of Black professionals and sparked important conversations about diversity in the field of cybersecurity, the most exciting part is that the movement is just getting started.

The campaigns have been a call to diversify the cybersecurity field, and New America is moving to answer it. This summer, we are announcing our newest fellowship program, the #ShareTheMicInCyber Fellowship. This yearlong fellowship beginning December 2022 will provide cybersecurity professionals from diverse backgrounds with an opportunity to conduct policy research and analysis, explore critical cybersecurity issues, and launch valuable new projects to advance the field. In turn, fellows will receive a $20,000 stipend, and gain access to professional development, networking, mentorship, and partnership opportunities.

The application for the #ShareTheMicInCyber Fellowship is now open from August 1 through September 16, 2022. If you’re a cybersecurity professional or a professional interested in pursuing a career in cybersecurity, we invite you to apply to be one of our seven inaugural fellows. We encourage those who are traditionally underrepresented in the field of cybersecurity — including those with marginalized identities in terms of race, gender, sexuality, neurodiversity, or citizenship — to apply for this opportunity. The fellowship offers two tracks: research and impact.

  • Cyber Research Fellows will focus on conducting original research on a cybersecurity topic of their choice. At the conclusion of their fellowship, Research Fellows will be expected to deliver a high-quality, publication-ready paper on their findings, which the program will then support in production and promotion to ensure impact.
  • Cyber Impact Fellows will conduct a substantive cybersecurity project designed to aid and enhance the field. This new project could be a new policy initiative or organization, an assessment tool or technical solution, or anything that aligns with the Fellow’s interests and expands cybersecurity for all. Over the course of the year, they will work to turn that concept into reality, with the support of the fellowship program.

Just as there is no silver bullet in cybersecurity technology, there is no quick fix to diversifying the cyber workforce. It will take several years, many investments, and countless advocates. But if we can begin by recognizing that representation is crucial to bolstering the nation’s cybersecurity, then we can begin securing not just our technology, but a better future for all Americans.

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