CEC Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award

2018

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

College of Engineering and Computing

Advisor

Steven R. Terrell

Committee Member

Yair Levy

Committee Member

Alex Koohang

Abstract

Despite multiple national, educational, and industry initiatives, women continue to be underrepresented in the cybersecurity field. Only 11% of cybersecurity professionals, globally, are female. This contributes to the growing overall shortage of workers in the field. This research addressed the significant underrepresentation of females in the cybersecurity workforce. There are many practitioner and industry studies that suggest self-efficacy, discrimination and organizational culture play important roles in the low rate of women in the cybersecurity field. A limited number of scholarly studies identify causal factors; however, there is not a general consensus or framework to explain the problem thoroughly. Moreover, there exists a significant gap in theoretical framework utilizing qualitative methods to demystify the complex factors of engaging females to pursue the cybersecurity field.

This study utilized a grounded theory approach to interview twelve female cybersecurity professionals to discover their perceptions of the cybersecurity field. The participants revealed strategies that could encourage females to pursue the cybersecurity field. Data analysis included a data coding process and a constant comparative method of interview transcripts. This study identified four factors of engagement and one unexpected co-factor that are perceived to have an impact on decisions to pursue the cybersecurity field. The four factors identified were awareness, support, intrinsic and extrinsic values. The interesting find of the cybersecurity mindset profile factor that is perceived to enhance the success of career trajectory warrants additional research to discover the impacts on decision to pursue the cybersecurity field.

This findings of this research gives women a voice in recommending strategies to encourage other females to pursue the cybersecurity field. The findings also aid in demystifying the complexity of the factors by organizing and categorizing them in a logical sense in order to present a theoretical model to encourage females into the field of cybersecurity. Moreover, this study provides holistic insight to academicians and practitioners in developing future cybersecurity professionals. Additionally, it adds to the body of knowledge by answering the call for that additional qualitative approaches in methodology by bringing data richness and to generate new theoretical frameworks in cybersecurity research.

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