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Cyber War is not Gender War - Experiences of Creating a Productive Heterogeneous Environment in Cyber Security Research

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Women in Engineering Division: Retention of Undergraduate Students

Tagged Division

Women in Engineering

Tagged Topic


Page Count


Page Numbers

26.437.1 - 26.437.10



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Paper Authors

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Whitney Winders

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Cariana Cornel


Caralea Cornel Brigham Young University

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I am a sophomore student at Brigham Young University. I am greatly interested in cyber security, which has motivated me to increase my knowledge of said field by working as a research assistant.

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Allie Larson


Sarah A. Cunha

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Sarah Cunha is a student at Brigham Young University studying Information Technology with an emphasis in Cyber Security. She is originally from Dos Palos, California. She has participated in multiple Collegiate Cyber Defense Competitions and Capture the Flag events and currently is employed as a Research Assistant in the BYU Cyber Security Research Laboratory. Sarah is an active member of the BYU Red Team which has participated in several penetration tests for departments on campus, and businesses in the local area. Sarah has come to love both offensive and defensive cyber security and is currently planning on pursuing a Masters degree emphasizing Cyber Security.

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Samuel Moses Brigham Young University


Dale C. Rowe Brigham Young University

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Dr. Rowe has worked for nearly two decades in security and network architecture with a variety of industries in international companies. He has provided secure enterprise architecture on both military and commercial satellite communications systems. He has also advised and trained both national and international governments on cyber-security.
Since joining Brigham Young University in 2010, he has designed a variety of courses on information assurance, cybersecurity, penetration testing, cyber forensics, malware analysis and systems administration and published over a dozen papers in cyber-security.

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Laura Wilkinson Brigham Young University

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Laura Wilkinson is an Information Technology senior at Brigham Young University emphasizing in Cybersecurity. She has won several CyberDefense competitions and has volunteer work on both the defensive and offensive sides of security. She currently volunteers on the BYU red team, and is the CCDC coordinator for the school.

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Cyber War is not Gender War: Experiences of Creating a Productive Heterogeneous Environment in Cyber-Security ResearchWhile STEM disciplines continue to see an increase in female enrollment, there remains adistinct gender gap. In particular, the Technology and Computing space have always struggledto recruit and retain women. A similar trend is seen in employment, where approximately 25%of computing jobs are held by women. At ****** **** program, we have at times struggled toexceed 10% female enrollment. This is unfortunate, as it is the universal opinion of our ownfaculty, supported by data – that women are equal to, if not in some instances more capable thantheir male peers. It is thus extremely unfortunate that elements of society are still struggling withmistaken gender stereotypes, and that this, coupled with occasional misogyny can dissuadeyoung women from pursuing a career in computing. While this may not be the only cause, it isunacceptable.We have found (in line with other research) that strong faculty mentorship is an important factorin recruiting and retaining women in technology computing disciplines. This paper thus detailsapproaches used by a cyber-security research group of over 16 students in achieving a consistent40%-50% female participation within a program of less than 10% enrollment. There have beensignificant immediate and long-term benefits to establishing this ratio in a research group. Theseinclude a measurable increase in research productivity from both genders, peer-to-peermentoring, and a more complete perspective into the significance and impact of research overall.In the past four years, women have participated in both pedagogical and technical researchconferences, obtained research funding and developed entire courses. One particular effect ofsignificance has been an increase in direct, targeted recruitment of women into the program –and subsequently from the program by employers. We anecdotally note also that women incyber-security command a higher average placement wage than men, although regret that to date,this data is not statically significant due to insufficient data samples.In a time where everyone is a target of cybercrime, cyberbullying and other malicious cyber-attacks there is no longer space for a gender divide. The recruitment and retention of women incyber-security is not only necessary, but critical to ensure a diverse and optimized workforce.

Winders, W., & Cornel, C., & Cornel, C., & Larson, A., & Cunha, S. A., & Moses, S., & Rowe, D. C., & Wilkinson, L. (2015, June), Cyber War is not Gender War - Experiences of Creating a Productive Heterogeneous Environment in Cyber Security Research Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.23776

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