Photo courtesy of Azyn Chahryar Members of the Women In Cyber organization at Marshall University are shown in this photo from March.

HUNTINGTON - There are few, if any, female instructors in many of Marshall University's science, computer and technology programs. There may be even fewer female students in these programs. That's why the Women In Cyber organization was created in the spring semester of this year.

Chelsie Cooper, faculty adviser to the group and recent graduate of the Digital Forensics and Information Assurance (DFIA) program, said she knew something needed to be done to spread awareness and help bridge the gender gap in tech fields. Cooper helped create the organization alongside DFIA Chair John Sammons, as she said she experienced the gender gap firsthand in many of her classes.

The Women In Cyber organization is designed to act as a support group for female students going into the tech field, where other females may not be as plentiful as other majors and fields.

"Our goal is to bring awareness that all these tech fields are lacking females," Cooper said. "Engineering, computer, technology, digital forensics, criminal justice, we try to recruit from all the different tech degrees (at Marshall)."

Sammons said the organization was created to help reverse the trend of women being underrepresented in the technology field.

"In our program we're seeing similar numbers that they see nationwide," Sammons said. "Currently around 27% of all the folks in our department, our program, are female. We want to increase those numbers. Cyber security in particular is a field with tremendous job opportunities. So we want to try to spread the good news to make sure that female students feel comfortable and confident. It's definitely not a man's world."

Future projects for Women In Cyber include workshops on campus to raise awareness on phishing scams, cyber security and password protection, as well as organize camps for local middle and high school students, Cooper said.

"We're going to do day camps, to strike their interest in the technology fields that they could potentially go into," Cooper said. "Because that's where we feel (the interest) kind of drops off, by the time they get to middle school. So the goal of the camps would be to take things we do in our classroom - what we learn in our degrees - simplify it, and put it in something that would strike their interest that maybe one day they would like to learn more about and go into it."

Cooper said while the organization's goal is to support women in tech, men can join as allies.

"The reason being is, there are males out there that understand how to be a male ally and stick up for women," Cooper said. "But there are also men that do not stick up for women in these fields and do not help us out, and they're the ones that we need to get on our side to help us to ease that path to get more females into it. So that's also part of it, too, is getting them to understand what it is to be a male ally."

Female students who aren't majoring in technology may also join, Cooper said, as they may have outside interests and hobbies in tech.

Women In Cyber currently has 12 members, and while recruiting efforts will be increased in the fall, Sammons said those interested in joining now may email him at john.sammons@marshall.edu. Women In Cyber will also help incoming students at Marshall, Sammons said.

"As incoming freshmen, whether male or female, that can be an intimidating process," Sammons said. "A whole new environment; in essence, they're starting over again. They just left high school at the top of the food chain, and now they're back starting all over. This is a way for them to get involved, to reach out to folks that want to that can answer questions, to give them some guidance."