The cyber security industry, with its dearth of talent, is the most fantastic opportunity for upward social mobility in a generation. Inequality and anxiety is rising, and as a result we’re witnessing a wave of populism and increasing polarity of views. But there is a solution: cyber security.
Article author: Margaret Jones, General Manager of the Cyber Security Challenge
The Social Mobility Commission’s State of the Nation 2018 to 2019 states that ‘class privilege remains entrenched as social mobility stagnates’. But why does that matter? The report notes that ‘the better off are still 80 per cent more likely to make it into professional jobs than those from working class backgrounds’. It suggests that ‘40 per cent of inequalities in earnings are passed through the generations, meaning people from lower income backgrounds are also likely to go on to have lower incomes as adults. It pays to be privileged.’ The report has a pessimistic view – the price of upward social mobility is that someone else has to be downwardly socially mobile.
There is now a 10 year gap in male life expectancy between the richest and poorest areas (IFS Deaton Report). When people in more deprived areas typically have lower life satisfaction scores, are less likely to think that the things they do are worthwhile, less likely to feel happy yesterday, and more likely to be anxious*, these inequalities lead to a dysfunctional society. As university science researcher Dr James Hutchinson asks in the BBC News article ‘Inequality driving deaths of despair’ (Coughlan and Brown 14 May 2019) ‘how do we build a functional society out of dysfunctional lives?’ When inequality thrives, it creates suspicion of those in power, and their motives, amongst those in society who can’t participate in the good life others seem to enjoy. This suspicion is being demonstrated by a rise of populism and an increasing polarity of views. But there is good news.
With so many roles in cyber security vacant, the industry provides upward social mobility opportunities where no-one has to lose out. To take best advantage of this opportunity, interventions must be made in those areas of the country which are struggling with deprivation in order to provide the support for latent talent to emerge. Engaging secondary school age students helps young people to make good choices when it comes to online activity and sets up the next generation of cyber security experts to keep the UK and its businesses safe online. But cyber is not on the curriculum, so intervention has to come from independent operators. The Schools Programme designed by the Cyber Security Challenge aims to pick these young people up, inspire them and get them heading off on the road to lifelong, financially rewarding careers. Cyber security offers a real opportunity to effect lasting social change for the benefit of us all.