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January Guest Blog with WGU North Carolina

Black, Latina, and Native American Women Are Key to Cybersecurity Workforce Shortage in North Carolina

Article Co-Authors

Dwana Franklin-Davis
CEO, Reboot Representation

Ben Coulter, Ed.D.
Chancellor, WGU North Carolina

Cyberattacks continue to target our major employers, government offices, healthcare systems, and utility infrastructure. In 2021 alone, cybercrime damage cost businesses in the U.S. more than $6.9 billion, according to noted cybersecurity expert Chuck Brooks, president of Brooks Consulting International.

The threat of a devastating cyber security attack remains present across North Carolina. In October, the state’s Department of Information Technology reported that a cyber threat caused widespread interruptions to state government computer systems. In addition, a ransomware attack struck North Carolina A&T University in April, disrupting apps and systems used for instruction and operations.

Our problem in combating cybercrime is that organizations cannot protect themselves without a talented workforce trained in cybersecurity. Despite the critical need for more talent, a workforce shortage persists at an alarming rate: there are more than 700,000 cybersecurity job openings in the U.S.—including nearly 25,000 in North Carolina alone.

If solving this problem was as easy as offering competitive salaries, there wouldn’t be a shortage. There is a lot to be done to fill these vacancies, but one solution is to support and encourage populations who might not otherwise think to enter the IT field to do so. For example, Black, Latina, and Native American (BLNA) women represent approximately 16 percent of the total U.S. population, yet they make up only 4 percent of students obtaining bachelor’s degrees in computing. By training and preparing BLNA women to pursue a career in cybersecurity, we are not only alleviating this shortage, but introducing fresh, qualified talent into our workforce.

Nationwide, only 25 percent of tech graduates are women, with a dropout rate of 37 percent for tech classes compared to 30 percent for other programs. If this trend continues, the number of underrepresented women of color receiving computing degrees will not double until 2052—by which time they will represent an increasingly smaller proportion of all graduates.

To increase the number of BLNA women pursuing cybersecurity, we need to show them that we want them in this field and will provide the support they need to get here. North Carolina is home to multiple organizations focused on no-cost, entry-level training and career pathways for those considering a career in cybersecurity. For example, Per Scholas – with a location in Charlotte – is one such organization that offers training and access to employer networks to individuals often excluded from tech careers.

Western Governors University (WGU) is providing support to BLNA women pursuing cybersecurity even earlier in the pipeline: Reboot Representation Tech Coalition, a group of 21 leading tech companies that are committed to doubling the number of BLNA women receiving computing degrees by 2025, recently awarded the university a Building Bridges and Breaking Barriers for Women in Tech grant of nearly $1 million dollars to significantly increase the number of BLNA women receiving undergraduate information technology degrees at WGU by 2025.

While 61 percent of WGU students are women, the university’s BLNA enrollment in its College of Information Technology closely resembles the national average. Through the Building Bridges and Breaking Barriers for Women in Tech grant, BLNA women at WGU will have expanded access to peer and coaching support, admissions process support, leadership development training, and financial aid grants in their pursuit of baccalaureate IT degrees. To find out more about becoming a student via the grant support, visit

Every day, hackers and cyber criminals launch new, sophisticated computer viruses, malware, and scams that threaten the data our society relies upon. We have seen first-hand the devastating effect cybercrimes have in North Carolina, which serve a key role in national security efforts with offices for the FBI and IRS, among other federal and state agencies.

We must rise to the challenge of better protecting invaluable data at top organizations and by creating talent pipelines that connect those organizations with homegrown candidates in North Carolina.

WGU recognizes the urgent need to provide more women of color access to industry-relevant technology education to prepare them for thriving-wage, in-demand careers in the technology sector. Doing so not only helps them to support their families but also will be a positive step to protecting North Carolina businesses and residents from cybersecurity attacks.

Dwana Franklin-Davis is the CEO of Reboot Representation. She is a collaborative and compelling visionary leading the Tech Coalition’s pooled philanthropic investments that enable Black, Latina, and Native American women to graduate with computing degrees by 2025 and lessen the diversity gap in tech.

Ben Coulter, Ed.D. is Chancellor of WGU North Carolina, a state affiliate of accredited online nonprofit Western Governors University, and Regional Director for WGU’s Southeast Region. 


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