Why aren't more women in cyber security?

The problem of a low percentage of women applying for the SFS program is a symptom of a much larger problem.

The engineering and computing disciplines have long suffered from low female enrollment. While the majority of students in colleges and universities are women, it is a sad fact that the percentage of women in computer science is less than 20% of the total student population.

Jane Margolis and Allen Fisher wrote a book entitled Unlocking the Clubhouse: Women in Computing, in which they explored the reasons why women shy away from the computing curricula. One of the many suggestions that they provide to make computing more female-friendly is to explain to girls the "breadth and social relevance of computing".

In another book, Stuck in the Shallow End: Education, Race and Computing, Margolis explores why disadvantaged students in Los Angeles, even when resources are made available to them, do not take advantage of the opportunities as often as other students. In a conversation with a minority female student, the student stated, "while she really enjoyed the subject and wanted to continue her computer science studies, she had no interest in persisting in what she felt was an unfriendly and somewhat exclusive environment."

MSU is a university with excellent programs in Information Assurance Education and Research, and a history of using innovative approaches to IA education. MSU has developed a culture of fusing "discovery learning" in the IA curriculum, and that approach tends to favor students traditionally uncomfortable with technical education.

Even so, MSU still suffers from low enrollment of women in these disciplines. Current enrollment figures for the academic disciplines that are eligible to apply for the SFS scholarship at MSU are shown below. Increasing the number of women participating in information assurance activities may provide incentive for more women to apply for these disciplines as well.

Undergraduate Female Enrollment Percentages

Business Information Systems 24%
Computer Science 7%
Computer Engineering 11.5%
Electrical Engineering 12%
Industrial Engineering 32%
Software Engineering 16%

Graduate Female Enrollment Percentages

Information Systems 25%
Computer Science 19%
Computer Engineering 3.5%
Electrical Engineering 12%
Industrial Engineering 17%
Industrial and Systems Engineering 27%

Results from the assessments conducted last year certainly attest to the fact that these single sex experiences and hands-on approaches provide more interest among women in the field. Perhaps, it is the opportunity to more fully engage in the activities that allows that interest to be expressed.