Diversity is an ongoing and pressing problem in the cybersecurity workforce today. With a growing skills gap that predicts a current job shortage of nearly three million roles, little improvement has been made to create an industry representative of the global community that it serves.
The InfoSec Hoppers is a group created to confront this problem, primarily by providing resources and ongoing mentorship and support for women, LGBT+ people and gender minorities, Black Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) people, non-neurotypical people and people with disabilities, and other underrepresented groups working in information security and across the information technology sector.
Security and diversity go hand in hand. We believe that the problems of accessing good information security can be solved, in part, by increasing the reach of security through other tech roles.
If we recognise that security needs to be built into the development pipeline, then that’s where diversity needs to begin, too.
Women currently make up only 11% of the global information security workforce, according to the UK's National Cyber Security Centre. We have not been able to source statistics for other underrepresented groups, however, we task those already employed in the sector to look around them and decide for themselves.
We often say that security is everyone’s problem. Inclusion is, too.
If we are not diverse we cannot be secure, because threat models, risks, and attack methods are not one-size fits all. We are therefore looking to empower all those who are underrepresented in this space to carry the torch for security.
The InfoSec Hoppers are based in Manchester, UK, with members spread throughout the world, all working in various capacities of tech, with either interest in, or responsibility for information security. We provide a buddy programme to conferences for those who may find male-dominated events to be overwhelming or unwelcoming.
We don’t hate men. There are many men who support us, work with our group to mentor others, and call on our support, in turn, to help them create safer and more welcoming spaces, whether it be a meetup, conference or online space.
We simply want to make the industry more accessible to people of all different backgrounds and experiences – something that we believe as essential in creating the secure products of the future.
Our events, which span from capture-the-flags, workshops, social events, and crafts, are centred around technical knowledge, offering an alternative to the alcohol focused environments still seemingly favoured by tech.
Some of our events are for women and gender minorities only, and some are open to all. See our next event page for more information.
Rear Admiral Grace Hopper (1906 – 1992) was an American computer scientist, known for her pioneering work in programming languages and as a woman who disrupted the male-dominated fields of math, physics, and military. A rebel at heart, she was renowned for her ability to get things done. Famously, she flew a small Jolly Roger flag on her desk.
Having joined the United States Navy Reserve at the height of WWII in 1943, Hopper is credited with working on the world’s first mainframe computer, the Harvard Mark I, and for developing the first compiler code to facilitate easier conversation between humans and machines. The term “bug” came from her as well, after she discovered that a moth stuck inside the Harvard Mark II, also called the Aiken Relay Calculator, was causing it to malfunction.
Hopper won many awards for her achievements, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honour in the United States, which she received in 2016. An annual conference, the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, is celebrated in her honour.
While often viewed as a beacon for gender equality, empowering women was never part of the Grace Hopper agenda, though, as a woman, life was not always easy for her.
In 1949, shortly after becoming Senior Mathematician at J. Presper Eckert and John Mauchly’s computing company, Hopper was arrested in Philadelphia for drunk and disorderly conduct. After years of pushing herself hard for results in computing and the military, in the late 1940s and early 1950s she struggled with depression, alcoholism, and suicidal thoughts. She sought treatment for her alcoholism and made a full recovery.
An overtly direct, no nonsense woman, Hopper chose to lift up individuals, and those keen to think outside the box and broaden the field of computer programming. For decades, large numbers of young computer scientists passed through her teams, learning about programming from a master-programmer and master-teacher.
In this spirit, we pay homage to Grace Hopper by bringing her no nonsense attitude into the new millennia, creating opportunities and support for the talented and curious women and minority groups in information security and wider tech, acknowledging the issues faced by those groups underrepresented in the field, and raising the question of how we better support mental health and wellbeing. Issues that her time period would not allow for.