Women Take Their Place on the Global Security Stage


Physical security, like information security, has long been an industry dominated by men. However, in the past decade, this has begun to change.

Women are now moving into more executive-level management roles at security providers, as well as higher-level security roles in enterprises of all kinds. This mirrors what has been happening across organizations worldwide, as the number of women occupying important positions from entry-level through the C-Suite–including and beyond their typical marketing and HR roles–continues to grow.

At Global Security Exchange (GSX) this 8-12 September in Chicago, countless accomplished women are delivering presentations that are worthwhile for all audiences. These individuals’ thought leadership provides value to the entire security industry community. If you plan to attend GSX, don’t miss the opportunity to hear them speak.

Networking and forming affinity groups have been a powerful resource for men in all fields. Dayna Howard, CPP, Director, NACF Loss Prevention, Amazon, will speak at GSX about the best way to provide this type of support structure to women who are entering the security industry. In her experience leading the Amazon Women in Security (AWIS) group, she has encouraged networking across security business units and geographical regions, and her presentation will include information about how you can set up a similar group of your own.

While many individuals struggle with setting the right balance between life and work, many women find that defined gender roles extend into the workplace, limiting their progress. At the conference, Dr. Jennifer Hesterman, Vice President, Business Resiliency, Watermark Risk Management International, will speak about how women can thrive in the specific environment presented by the security industry and achieve success. Her book, Soft Target Hardening: Protecting People from Attack (Second Edition) was selected as the 2019 ASIS Security Industry Book of the Year. Women bring their own unique qualities to the workplace; rather than consider this a barrier, we can leverage these qualities to capitalize on the advantages they deliver. Mentoring is one vital key to finding success, and Hesterman’s session will explore the power of mentoring along with the challenges and benefits of cross-gender mentoring relationships.

In addition to the above, Hesterman will present a case study on response and recovery from a violent incident, as well as two sessions on soft target hardening–one of the most pressing issues facing the security industry today as we grapple with the difficulty of securing open spaces from active shooters.

Addressing critical threats that have already harmed millions, cybersecurity is one of the hottest topics in the security industry right now. A number of women have achieved high-ranking positions in the InfoSec world. Among them is Tarah Wheeler, who will deliver a General Session address at GSX. An enterprise security industry veteran, strategist, international conflict scientist, and cybersecurity expert, Wheeler will speak in detail about protection, response and recovery from cyber breaches.

Like the other women presenting at the conference, Wheeler has a highly impressive resume reflecting an accomplished career in security. An offensive security researcher, she is currently an inaugural contributing cybersecurity expert for the Washington Post. a cyber warfare contributor for Foreign Policy, and the Cybersecurity Policy Fellow at New America. Wheeler is also the author of the best-selling book Women in Tech: Take Your Career to The Next Level with Practical Advice and Inspiring Stories, dedicated to teaching women how to succeed in tech careers.

Wheeler will be introduced by Brigadier General Stefanie Horvath, the current leader of enterprise service delivery for the state of Minnesota. Following the presentation, General Horvath and Wheeler will take questions and provide insights based on their individual perspectives on cybersecurity.

Diversifying the security profession’s future talent pool is a responsibility for organizations and individuals alike. Organizations need to invest not only in a more expansive recruitment process but also in a retention process, focusing on supporting the needs of lesser represented groups in the security industry. Individuals, on the other hand, should actively seek out mentors whatever the environment. According to Hesterman, “Cross-generational and cross-gender mentorship – it’s a two-way street. If the industry wants more women, they’re going to have to work for it. It’s what can be done and what should be done.”

Still, there won’t be true balance and equality between the genders in the security industry until women giving presentations at conferences no longer need to speak about forming support groups and overcoming barriers. The numerous sessions being delivered at the GSX show by some of the industry’s most accomplished women are a significant step in the right direction.