Publication Date

October 2023


A robust cybersecurity workforce is critical for protection against a range of malicious attacks. However, it has been noted that there are many vacancies and a shortage of individuals entering the cybersecurity workforce. This workforce shortage has partly been attributed to the lack of diversity in the cybersecurity field, with women, African Americans, and Hispanics remaining underrepresented in educational and professional settings. Using a qualitative approach, this work sought to investigate what led underrepresented minorities currently involved in cybersecurity to the industry, with the goal of determining methods to attract and diversify the workforce. A thematic analysis was conducted using data collected during interviews with 23 participants including underrepresented minority students, underrepresented minority professionals, college instructors, and a high school administrator. The interview questions aimed to address (a) what attracted minorities to the field, (b) how they overcame educational and professional roadblocks, (c) how they built non-technical knowledge, skills, and attitudes, and (d) how they maintained engagement. Findings revealed 17 themes that were related to characteristics of (a) the learner, (b) the instruction, and (c) the environment. Based on these findings, recommendations are presented to illustrate how these themes can be implemented by instructors with the goal of increasing the participation and involvement of underrepresented minorities and fostering diversity in the cybersecurity field.