SAP and Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs Team Up to Attract Female Talent to Cybersecurity


Worldwide cybercrime costs, according to Cybersecurity Ventures, will hit US$6 trillion annually this year. At the same time, the U.S. cybersecurity labor market is short half a million workers.

While the shortage in cybersecurity offers great career opportunities, it is not expected to be filled anytime soon. Hardly an organization is not impacted by a cybersecurity skills shortage – but it’s not a field where those willing to enter can become an expert overnight. A mid- to long-term strategy is required.

Security Starts with People

At SAP, security starts with people – professionals who are innovative, curious, tenacious, and driven to find new ways to solve emerging challenges in cybersecurity. According to SAP Chief Security Officer Tim McKnight, a diverse workforce is key to creating a greater mix of ideas to spur innovation. One of the issues in the industry, though, is that only 10% of information security professionals are women.

For SAP’s chief security officer, it is important that his organization achieve gender balance. “It needs to be built into our DNA, with my leadership team as well as throughout the organization,” McKnight stated. For him, it’s one thing to set goals for gender diversity but another matter altogether to build it into the culture of an organization.

“We’re looking for professionals who are driven by our mission: helping the world run better and improve people’s lives,” McKnight added. “A diverse professional background is important in solving the complex problems of cybersecurity.” Accordingly, SAP wants people with a passion for cybersecurity and an analytical mind-set who can think outside of the box, which goes beyond technical skills. For McKnight, women are key to increasing cybersecurity skills within his own team, but also to achieving greater gender parity in the workforce.

SAP and Columbia SIPA Team to improve Diversity in Cybersecurity, Attract Early Talent

SAP is taking a new route to close the skills gap and the gender gap by forging a new relationship with Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA). According to the announcement made by SAP, the goal is to identify and develop early talent and improve diversity in the cybersecurity sector. Specific objectives include collaborating on a curriculum, providing more internships and early career opportunities, enabling better knowledge transfer between the organizations, and encouraging early talent to explore new career opportunities.

“Early engagement is an important factor when it comes to increasing diversity in the workplace,” said Beth Mauro, associate dean of Development at Columbia SIPA. “Ultimately, it benefits both the company and students. The company has the benefit of gaining a diverse workforce and the students have a unique opportunity to enter a high-demand career path with plenty of opportunities for growth.”

SAP will lead events on and off campus, contribute to thought leadership, host career events, and sponsor Capstone workshops – SIPA’s signature consulting projects, which give students the opportunity to work with and advise external clients.

SAP Chief Trust Officer Elena Kvochko observed: “We are hopeful that introducing this career path to students and recent graduates will make this career field more attractive for women.”

For SAP, security and diversity are not just about being compliant and fair but about bringing ideas, skills, and creativity to the organization to find new ways to solve emerging challenges in cybersecurity.

SAP expects to see an increasing demand for a broader scope of professionals, such as incident response specialists, information security engineers, and penetration testers, but also for traditionally nonsecurity roles to incorporate more security-related tasks. This trend is opening doors to many opportunities for transitioning to a career in cybersecurity. SAP is currently seeking to hire 100 security professionals. For more information, see global cybersecurity jobs at SAP.