What Brings Women to Cybersecurity?: A Qualitative Study of Women's Pathways to Cybersecurity in Norway

November 2020
ACM Digital Library
Proceedings of the ACM Conference on Computer and Communications Security

The proportion of women in information technology (IT) work is low, however, the growing field of cybersecurity attracts even fewer women. This paper reports from a study exploring what motivates women to enter IT in general and cybersecurity in particular, with the aim of developing strategies to recruit women to these fields. The analysis builds on in-depth interviews with 24 female students and researchers at universities, 12 in cybersecurity and 12 in other IT disciplines. There are some similarities between the two groups, like the lack of knowledge about any IT disciplines, leaving gender stereotypes to lead their images of IT. There are also differences: a wider set of interests and disciplines motivate women to choose cybersecurity. The women find it easier to identify with cybersecurity, seeing it as a field concerning "everybody", different from core fields of IT. IT is still an important gateway and gender stereotypes about IT are a challenge for recruiting women to IT as well as cybersecurity.