Microsoft is initiating new partnerships under its Ready4Cybersecurity program in Asia to improve access to cybersecurity skills and careers for the historically and systemically underrepresented with a focus on young women. Into its second year, Ready4Cybersecurity is committing to skill and certify 100,000 young women and underrepresented youths in cybersecurity by 2025, enhancing opportunities for employment in cybersecurity, filling the talent gap, and building a diverse cybersecurity workforce.
According to Microsoft’s Digital Defense Report, the volume of password attacks has risen to an estimated 921 attacks every second in 2022 – a 74% increase in just one year. Cyberattacks often have devastating impacts – the average cost of a cyber breach has reached $4.35 million. This has led to an increased demand for skilled cybersecurity professionals in the region.
To bridge the talent and skills divide, Microsoft’s Ready4Cybersecurity program, which is part of its global Cybersecurity Skilling Initiative, is specifically designed and curated to create alternative pathways to empower underrepresented youths that aspire to enter the cybersecurity industry.
There are a projected 3.5 million cybersecurity jobs to be filled globally in 2025, with a 350% increase in demand for people with cybersecurity skills over an eight-year period. Specifically, the opportunity for women to work in cybersecurity is huge, given that women make up only 25% of the cybersecurity workforce globally.
Through public-private partnerships, Ready4Cybersecurity will provide access to industry-recognized cybersecurity foundational and intermediate skills and certification to traditionally excluded populations to help them qualify for open roles – with 75% of individuals trained to be women.
Since the launch of the Ready4Cybersecurity campaign in 2022, Microsoft has trained over 19,800 individuals from underserved communities, providing up to 18,300 cyberskilling initiatives. In the second year of the campaign, Microsoft will continue to work with its partners to skill and certify young women and underrepresented youths in cybersecurity to drive positive impact.
To achieve its commitments, Microsoft is taking a holistic approach to create a more diverse and inclusive cybersecurity workforce:
Partnering with non-profits: Microsoft has partnered with non-profits who are in direct contact with the underserved communities, empowering non-profits to directly skill identified segments of the underserved populations, particularly young girls and women.
Equipping the education systems: A key strategy to address the cybersecurity gap will be to equip educational institutions to effectively teach cybersecurity to the next generation of talent and inspire them to become defenders against cyber threats.
Scaling with governments: Microsoft believes that the road to digital peace requires a collaborative effort that involves multiple stakeholders, including governments, tech companies, non-governmental organizations, and international organizations working together towards a common goal.
Leveraging Microsoft’s customer and partner ecosystem: Microsoft has been closely partnering with its network of customers and partners to reassess hiring avenues and consider alternative pathways that focus less on paper qualifications and more on a skills-based approach.
A key strategy to address the cybersecurity skill gap is to equip educational institutions to be better able in teaching cybersecurity to the next generation of talent. As part of Microsoft’s commitment to create a robust cybersecurity ecosystem in India, Microsoft launched the Cybershikshaa for Educators initiatives in 2022 to help provide cybersecurity skills training to 400 faculty members across 100 institutions. By empowering the educators, a further 6,000 underserved students will be able to build careers in the cybersecurity field through the skills training, internships, and job placements that are offered as part of the initiative.
In 2023, NIELIT (India’s key organization to establish standards for the country’s examinations and certifications in the information technology sector) and Microsoft announced a collaboration to increase access to jobs aimed primarily at underserved youth, women and jobseekers from remote areas of India. It aims to provide employment opportunities for 1,100 underserved youths in its pilot year of deployment and 3,500 learners are expected to undergo training and receive internship or employment opportunities in the cybersecurity field.
Microsoft is also partnering with TATA STRIVE to skill faculty and students in select universities and colleges in 11 cities on cybersecurity. In addition, the LinkedIn collaboration will help to enhance workforce readiness and mentoring of students for jobs, including partnering with private sector organizations for internship and employment opportunities.
To combat the rising threat of cybercrimes, a multi-stakeholder approach is needed. Microsoft aims to build capacities of more training organizations as well as non-profits to offer cybersecurity skilling to underserved groups.
Manju Dhasmana, Regional Philanthropies Director – Asia, Microsoft, said: “There is a pressing need to address the gender gap in the cybersecurity field where women make up only 25% of cybersecurity professionals globally. We must recognize that a diverse cybersecurity workforce is key in the fight to defend cyberspace and boost cyber resilience. Addressing diversity gaps in the industry requires intentionality in program design and execution. We are committed to working with local education, nonprofit, government and business organizations, through such programs as Ready4Cybersecurity, to develop partnerships and initiatives to improve access to cybersecurity skilling and to empower more women and underserved communities to pursue a career in this critical industry.”
To learn more about Microsoft’s Cybersecurity Skilling Initiative, visit Microsoft Philanthropies global blog and the Philanthropies Asia microsite.