The ad, which encouraged people working in the arts to retrain in cybersecurity, has been abandoned amid backlash online and even within the government, according to reports from The Guardian, The Washington Post and MarketWatch.
Although pulled from the official website, the ad was still easily viewable after going viral on social media with the hashtag “#SavetheArts.” The image displays a ballet dancer tying her shoes. The caption reads, “Fatima’s next job could be in cyber (she just doesn’t know it yet),” followed by the tagline “Rethink. Reskill. Reboot.”
Posted on the website of training firm QA, the ad was part of the UK cybersecurity agency’s Cyber First campaign, which promotes tech training for young people. Oliver Dowden, the British culture secretary, tweeted that the ad was “crass” and did not come from his agency. A spokesperson for the prime minister said, “This particular piece of content was not appropriate and has been removed from the campaign.”
The UK government’s volte-face followed widespread criticism that the ad showed disrespect toward the culture sector, which has been suffering catastrophic job losses. The author Caitlin Moran tweeted: “I don’t know if the government know they appear to have recently created a ‘Hopes & Dreams Crushing Department,’ but for a country already depressed and anxious, I would suggest it’s a bit of a ‘Not now, dudes’ moment?" The shadow health minister, Rosena Allin-Khan, chimed in: “Fatima, you be you. Don’t let anyone else tell you that you aren’t good enough because you don’t conform to their preconceived social norms.”
Meanwhile, a recent survey finds that most people say a career in cybersecurity isn’t for them, despite the sector’s demand for talent. Among 2,500 U.S. and UK workers surveyed by (ISC)2, 69% said that while cybersecurity seems like a good career path, it isn’t the right personal fit.