Historically, concerns about inclusion and diversity have not been widely discussed in the security market. In the last couple of years, however, the Security Industry Association (SIA) and other groups have worked to raise awareness around issues of diversity and inclusion.

Specifically, SIA’s Women in Security Forum has focused on the growing role of women in all aspects of security, and SIA’s RISE community has focused on “rising stars” in an industry previously dominated by Baby Boomers.

The next generation of security leaders

There is a business case to be made for diversity and inclusion, says a report by McKinsey & Company. According to the management consulting company, gender-diverse companies are 24% more likely to outperform less diverse companies, and ethnically diverse companies are 33% more likely to outperform their less diverse counterparts. Furthermore, the “next generation of security leaders” – employees under 30 – are particularly focused on diversity and inclusion.

Diversity refers to the traits and characteristics that make people unique

A panel discussion at ISC West’s Virtual Event highlighted aspects of inclusion and diversity, starting with a definition of each. Diversity refers to the traits and characteristics that make people unique. On the other hand, inclusion refers to the behaviour and social norms that ensure people feel welcome.

“We are all on a journey, and our journey takes different paths,” said Willem Ryan of AlertEnterprise, one of the SIA panelists. “There are opportunities to improve over time. We can all change and increase our ability to have a positive impact.”

Industry responsibility

The industry has a responsibility to the next generation of industry leaders to address issues of inclusion and diversity. Forbes magazine says that millennials are more engaged at work when they believe their company fosters an inclusive culture.

So the question becomes: How do we unify and create opportunities to work with and champion tomorrow’s leaders?

SIA is driving change in our industry to achieve that goal. More women are active in SIA than ever before. The SIA Women in Security Forum now has 520 members, said Maureen Carlo of BCD International, the SIA Women in Security Forum Chair and another panelist. Also, more women than ever are chairing SIA committees and serving on the SIA Board of Directors.

More women than ever are chairing SIA committees

Overcoming unconscious bias

Former SIA Chairman Scott Shafer of SMS Advisors, another of the panelists, noted that SIA awarded the Chairman’s Award to the Women in Security Forum in 2019, and to the RISE community steering committee in 2020.

“There are lots of ways we are seeing the elevation of women and ethnic groups in the security industry,” said Shafer.

One topic of interest is the problem of “unconscious bias,” which can be overcome by looking at something through some else’s lens. Ryan suggested use of the acronym SELF –  Slow Down, Empathise, Learn, and Find commonalities.

Ryan recalled the value of being mentored and having someone shepherd him around the industry. “Now I want to give back,” he said. “We need to look at the things we can change in ourselves, in our company, in our communities, and in our industry. Change comes from the bottom and the top.”

Increasing representation

“It takes all of us to increase representation everywhere,” said Kasia Hanson of Intel Corp., another panelist. “We have in common that we are all human beings. Let’s make sure the next generation all have opportunities.”

Diverse companies can attract better talent

Moving forward, the panelists urged the industry to get involved and create opportunities because inclusion drives diversity. Diverse companies can attract better talent and attain a competitive advantage. Awareness of unconscious bias, and working to eliminate it, is an important element of change.

Despite the progress the security industry is making, change continues to be incremental. As Ruth Bader Ginsburg has said, “Real change, enduring change, happens one step at a time.”

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Larry Anderson Editor, SecurityInformed.com & SourceSecurity.com

An experienced journalist and long-time presence in the US security industry, Larry is SourceSecurity.com's eyes and ears in the fast-changing security marketplace, attending industry and corporate events, interviewing security leaders and contributing original editorial content to the site. He leads SourceSecurity.com's team of dedicated editorial and content professionals, guiding the "editorial roadmap" to ensure the site provides the most relevant content for security professionals.

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