Demand for cyber security talent is often seen to be for young, relatively recent graduates. Many view the cyber security industry as a modern field, and expect that the majority of the workforce will reflect that. Despite there being an increase in the number of young individuals entering the industry, there remains more experienced professionals for most roles. The perception that cyber security has only developed over recent years can be quashed by the fact that the field first emerged back in the 1980’s. Though this can explain the considerable presence of experienced professionals, it hasn’t prevented discussion regarding the topic of ageism in the industry.

More opportunities for young people?

It’s well known that the cyber security industry is currently facing a significant skills gap. There is a plethora of opportunities to enter the field, but not enough skilled professionals to take advantage. Furthermore, cyber threats are developing at a rapid pace, meaning there is a demand for individuals who have a modern understanding of preventative measures. Young people, fresh from university and specific lectures in cyber security, are seen as most appropriate. The older generation can be seen as more dated, and unlikely to have benefited from targeted studies in the area. As a result, there have been accusations that the industry is suffering from age bias.

Average age lower in the technology sector as a whole

The technology sector as a whole is often seen as being one where opportunities narrow as people age. This is backed by a recent study which found that the average tech worker is aged 38, five years younger than the average non-tech worker. Moreover, millennials, born from the early 1980’s onwards, make up 42.6% of the tech workforce, compared to just 26.1% outside tech. Similar figures are likely to be found in the cyber security industry, with a preference seemingly for younger talent. Reasoning for that could be that younger workers haven’t learnt what doesn’t work, so may be more likely to try things out, and be innovative.

Is ageism really a problem?

There is a strong case for the suggestion that ageism is apparent in the cyber security industry. Many organisations are favouring younger personnel, who they believe will be more up-to-date with the latest technologies, and be better equipped to react to change. However, there is still a significant amount of older workers in the field, and experience remains an important factor. The cost of suffering a cyber attack is becoming astronomical, and many companies will still look to those with proven expertise in the area.

As highlighted, the average age in the technology sector is younger than in most other industries, so there should be little surprise that this translates to cyber security. Older workers may have to look at how they’re marketing themselves to the market, but opportunities remain aplenty. Ageism isn’t necessarily a problem, but experienced professionals do need to react to the changes taking place.