The Story Behind
Hacking the Workforce

By Safi Mojidi, Founder

As we continue to transform into a digital first society, a lack of diversity of thought increases our susceptibility to an ever growing list of cybersecurity threats. We will continue to be at risk if we continue to rely on people who ask the same types of questions and come from the same backgrounds to combat the numerous and persistent threats to security. This highlights the need to increase not only the number of cyber professionals to combat the 400,000 workforce gap, but also increasing the amount of diversity in the field.

When there is a lack of diversity in technology, particularly in cybersecurity, it leaves us all more susceptible to cybercrime. Despite comprising nearly 14% of the US population, African-Americans make up only 3% of the tech industry’s workforce. African-Americans of the LGBTQ community experience disproportionately high rates of workplace discrimination, and are more often to make less than their white counterparts. These injustices are amplified by the technology industry’s scarcity of opportunities and possibilities, notably in cybersecurity for this demographic.

Cybersecurity is an industry with a shortage of over 400,000 practitioners in the US alone, yet the visibility of intersectional black communities — who are historically underserved, is severely lacking. I like to think of myself as a lifelong student who wants to continuously learn from others as well as impart my knowledge and expertise to as many people as possible. In recent years, I’ve had the opportunity to mentor people like me who have intersectional identities. It has been an extremely rewarding and fulfilling experience.

“African Americans make up nearly 14% of the US population yet make up just 3% of the tech workforce.”

The labor market in the United States has been expanding for more than a decade, and during this time, jobs have been available for workers of all races. However, race-based disparities in labor market outcomes have not disappeared yet. White Americans, on the other hand, have a significantly lower unemployment rate and more job access than African Americans. These variable experiences in the labor market add to the need for African American wealth, but also impede their accumulation. Leveraging new and innovative approaches to closing the racial wealth gap also necessitates labor market intervention.

“My hope is that the cybersecurity community will understand that including diverse perspectives is not only vital to protecting information security, but is also critical to ensuring future generations can flourish.”

As a result of the wide gap between wealthy and poor, as well as the systemic racism and oppression that marginalizes many, we’re witnessing first-hand the effects of our society’s inherent inequalities and inequities embodied in advanced technology inextricably linked to the disproportionate criminalization of black and brown people. I feel compelled and excited to help other members of intersectional marginalized communities take control of their financial futures by finding jobs that allow them to be financially independent and sustain themselves, as a way to combat structural disenfranchisement and give the next generation generational wealth.

I founded Hacking the Workforce because I am motivated by my strong desire to help my community. African American families require financial security in order to have greater access to good job opportunities. Consider, for example, the fact that money increases the likelihood that people will be able to finance their own and their children’s schooling, as well as moving to areas with more and better employment.

For African Americans to build wealth, many factors must come together. A sustained expansion of the labor market is a good start, but it is not sufficient, as the most recent data has identified. Although increased hiring has helped lower unemployment and increase employment opportunities, African Americans remain disproportionately unemployed, have fewer job opportunities, are paid less, have fewer employer-sponsored benefits, and work in less stable jobs. All of these factors can contribute to the widening of the already significant racial wealth gap.

Had I not been fortunate enough to meet mentors and allies with diverse identities, I wonder what different aspects of my career I could have highlighted had I met mentors who had the same identities as me. Though I recognize my privilege and appreciate the advantages of my career, I am also aware of my biases and appreciative of the diversity this industry provides. I have derived great meaning and value from supporting others in their full potential.

Hacking the Workforce programming provides health and wellness programs, mentorship, and financial education resources. Unlike other mentoring programs, we at Hacking the Workforce are committed to our member’s health, well-being, and growth. We spend one-third of our lives at work, illustrating the importance of job satisfaction in our health and happiness. Our mission is to make the world safer, more inclusive, and more successful for Black LGBTQ people in the cybersecurity profession.