Kasia Hanson, Chair of the SIA’s Women in Security Forum discusses the issue of diversity within the security industry.
Tremendous strides have been made throughout the security industry on the issue of diversity in recent times. Without doubt, there is still a long way to go, but the situation is certainly much better now than it has been in the past.
In the US, one of the main driving forces behind this improvement has been the Security Industry Association’s (SIA) Women in Security Forum. The forum is a group for both women and men that offers programs, professional development opportunities and networking events with the goal of supporting the involvement of women in the security industry.
The mission of the forum is to engage all security professionals to promote, recruit and cultivate the leadership of women for a more inclusive and diversified industry. To find out more about how the forum is helping to tackle the issue of diversity in security, International Security Journal spoke exclusively to its Chair, Kasia Hanson.
Learning is key
Kasia Hanson has been one of the leading figures in the technology and security sectors for more than two decades. In addition to her senior executive role at Intel, she was elected as Chair of the SIA’s Women in Security Forum in 2021 because of her ability to bring people together for a common cause
She said: “It has been a learning journey for me. There is something new every day that I’m learning about business and security so it’s an incredibly exciting time.”
Reflecting on her career so far, Hanson revealed some of the key lessons that she has learned: “We are moving so fast all the time and we are so busy, it is great to take a moment to think about what you have learned. The main lesson for me is to pay it forward, always be willing to help someone out. If someone comes to me and asks for help, my intention is to say yes, something I appreciate the most from my mentors and sponsors who have empowered my career trajectory.
“The other lesson, that I’m still learning about in fact, is how critical emotional intelligence is in the workspace. As a leader, it is crucial that you understand what it is and how you can best utilise it. Of course, as a leader, empathy and authenticity go hand-in-hand. Trying to be someone you’re not creates a lot of challenges in your career so let your authenticity shine.”
One of the key issues close to Hanson’s heart is that of diversity within the security industry. During her tenure as Chair of the SIA’s Women in Security Forum so far, she has brought enhanced drive and enthusiasm to the role along with a raft of fresh ideas.
She explained: “Our vision is to engage all security professionals to promote, recruit and cultivate the leadership of women for a more inclusive and diversified industry. We do this through the creation of programmes and numerous sub-committees which drive forward our involvement in the industry.
“Those programmes are fantastic opportunities for professional development and are really helping women build confidence in the workplace. They look at how we can improve recruiting programmes for the next generation and because we have several men on the sub-committees, it gives us that mixture of experiences, perspectives and allyship.”
Hanson added: “There are a lot of different platforms that we have developed to give more visibility to women, including the SIA Women in Security Forum Power 100.”
The Power 100 celebration will honour 100 women in the security industry who are role models for actively advancing diversity, inclusion, innovation and leadership in the community. Speaking at the launch of the initiative, SIA CEO, Don Erickson stated: ““Each year, the SIA Women in Security Forum’s efforts to foster a more diverse security workforce grow even stronger and we are thrilled to build on the forum’s successes with the Power 100 initiative. This new program will recognise women who lead, inspire and innovate and are truly making a difference in the global security industry.”
Hanson is equally excited about the impact that the Power 100 will have: “It has been amazing to see the number of nominations that we have received, there are women with a whole variety of different backgrounds and experiences. Providing these women with the recognition they deserve will be a really special part of ISC West for me.”
The Power 100 will not be the only activity organised by the Women in Security Forum at ISC West. Hanson provided some more details regarding the forum’s plans: “We really wanted to expand our presence at ISC West and therefore, we will be hosting the breakfast that we usually have but in addition, there will also be special guest speakers and several educational sessions throughout the conference. I’m really looking forward to meeting our friends and colleagues at ISC West.”
Still work to do
There is no doubt that security is a much more diverse industry than it was five or ten years ago but there is still significant progress that needs to be made. Hanson agrees: “When I first started in security, I noticed immediately that there was a limited number of women working in the industry. However, the refreshing thing was that there were so many men that were wanting to help and who identified that more diversity was needed. With respect to increasing the number of women in security, allyship is the key to closing the gender gap.
“It is undoubtedly a more inclusive industry now but there is still much work ahead. One area I think can still be improved is the number of women speakers at events and conferences. Speaker line-ups can still be too heavily weighted in favour of men and therefore, the forum has launched the WISF Speakers Bureau. Through the WISF Speakers Bureau, we bring female voices forward to better reflect an evolving industry. This free service helps connect event organisers and media outlets with industry experts who can address a range of topics. We want to build the Bureau over the coming year so would encourage women to get in touch if they are interested.”
She continued: “This isn’t a check the box exercise where we can sit back as an industry and believe we have done everything right, this is an ongoing effort and process; and with inclusion, it’s crucial we have an all hands on deck approach if we expect to see progress in our lifetime. We need to be continuing to talk about diversity and keeping it at the front of people’s minds. We need to continue the conversation and continuously showcase the brilliant women we have in this industry who possess superb skill sets and a wealth of experience. As a forum, we will keep working at it and I believe we will see even greater improvements over time.”
The passion and commitment demonstrated by Kasia Hanson during her time as Chair so far has made a hugely positive impact on the security industry within the US. It’s clear to see that the SIA’s Women in Security Forum will be leading the conversation on diversity for many years to come.
For more information, visit: www.securityindustry.org
This article was originally published in the March 2022 edition of International Security Journal. Pick up your FREE digital edition here.