Date of Award

Spring 3-2018

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Science in Information Systems

Department

Computer Science

First Advisor

Dr. Ashley Podhradsky

Second Advisor

Dr. Gabe Mydland

Third Advisor

Dr. Jennifer Nash

Abstract

There is a piercing shortage of personnel in the cybersecurity field that will take several decades to accommodate. Despite being 50 percent of the workforce, females only account for 11 percent of the cybersecurity personnel. While efforts have been made to encourage more females into the field, more needs to be done. Reality shows that a change in the statistics is not taking place. Women remain seriously under-represented in cybersecurity degree programs and the workforce.

Prior research shows that elementary girls are equally as interested in the cyber path as boys. It is in middle school that this interest shifts, which raises interesting questions about middle-school girls’ perceptions of cyber-related studies. This study focuses on middle-school girls’ perceptions of cybersecurity and what promising practices can be discovered to engage middle school girls in cybersecurity. These promising practices are then applied to the CybHER program.

Drawing on literature from gender gap and STEM research, prior interventions, and anchoring girls to the field, this study looks specifically at adolescent females in middle school. Through open-ended interviews, rich data was collected to form the CISSE framework of promising practices.

The CISSE framework shows that community, influence, social media connection, education, increase in self-efficacy, and education are important factors to anchor girls in a cybersecurity career path. The CISSE framework assisted in developing and enhancing the comprehensive program called CybHER. CybHER started as simply a name with a dream. By incorporating the CISSE framework, paying attention to prior successes and prior research, the CybHER program developed into a comprehensive program that includes intervention methods to educate and motivate girls to pursue cybersecurity. Five CybHER themes make up the program. These themes recognize time and relationships as important elements to girls.

CybHER provides community, influence, social media connection, increased selfefficacy and education while also producing anchors for girls in cybersecurity. Evaluation from experts in the field suggest that the program will make a significant difference in recruitment and retention of girls.

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