Several months ago, I was surprised when a female colleague encouraged me to attend the Women in Security (WIS) Conference at the Microsoft Headquarters in Redmond, Washington. It seemed odd that, as a prominent male figure in the threat prevention field, I would appear at an event clearly celebrating the work and challenges of women. Frankly, I was skeptical my appearance would bring much benefit.

I could not have been more wrong. I learned that after 40 years in this field, I still have so much to learn not only as the practice itself evolves, but those doing the actual work is expanding in diversity and skill set.

Women in Security – and a Man Who Hopes to Support Them

The summit’s purpose was “to facilitate a meeting to foster collaboration to support women in leadership within the security industry.” I met with and listened to an astounding array of female security leaders representing renowned companies such as Shell Oil, Oracle, Disney, Amazon, Microsoft, Caterpillar, MetLife, Teneo, Novelis, Verisign, Facebook, Bloomberg, The Boeing Company, McKinsey & Company, the NBA, PWC and many others who were willing to share their experiences.

In the presence of these incredible women, I began to realize that my presence at their conference was not superfluous, but an important step toward acknowledging and advocating for further diversity in this industry. I listened carefully as executive leaders described their challenges in gaining acceptance and inclusion. Many of these women stated that a mentor, often men, were the keys to their rising success and respect.

The WIS commitment to provide support and assistance to women in the security industry as well as to inspire those interested in entering the security industry through tailored programming and mentoring is essential for bettering the industry that I have dedicated my life to.

In other words, my purpose in this space was to be an ally – to listen and learn about my female colleagues and how to raise them up. The conference’s final speaker, ASIS International’s president Christina Duffey, provided the perfect end to a summit that left me excited about the future of security.

The Diversification of the Security Industry

Hillard Heintze has expressed dedication to diversity and inclusion, but these sentiments did not come out nowhere – women in private sector security is a rising demographic that will change the face of security in the years ahead.

Conference attendees were clearly cognizant of these rising trends. The message was loud, clear and exciting: women are still an untapped resource of talent for companies striving to be successful.

Take cybersecurity. In 2017, only 13 percent of Fortune 500 entities had women CISOs. In 2019, experts expect to see the number of women CISOs grow to 20 percent.

“Why the jump? The security industry has long lamented the fact that security resources are few and far between, but it does so while ignoring half of the population,” according to a report from Forrester.

My Experience in Four Points

I had many valuable lessons learned from this pioneering summit:

  1. I met an incredible network of security experts who have the heart and desire to improve their skills, network and progression through the security industry. I probably would never have met most of them had I not attended.
  2. There is a vast network of security professionals looking for opportunities to rise through the ranks to become a successful leader.
  3. Mentoring women security professionals will ensure the safety and success of private sectors and by the way, keep a company profitable and instill a culture of high morale by being recognized as a great place to work and professionally advance.
  4. I’ll be there next year.