We Choose to Challenge: Identiv’s Women Discuss Diversity and Inclusion in Security Technology
March 8, 2021
The team of women at Identiv is taking the time to reflect on the path that we forged to this present moment, how we are leading, championing equality, and challenging stereotypes every single day.
It is no surprise that the security industry, and more specifically, security technology, is historically a male-oriented profession. But we are also undeniably in the middle of a paradigm shift. The convergence of physical and cybersecurity allows more opportunity over the traditional physical security profession, where career paths typically began in law enforcement (another industry heavily saturated by men). Now, when we look around at our peers and our leaders, we see the faces of other women staring back at us, and that gives us confidence we are reaching higher goals.
There are more leadership development and mentoring programs aimed at the success of women in security and technology than ever before. The industry as a whole is learning that a diverse workforce is a workforce that thrives; there is more creativity, more innovation, better adaptability, and better productivity. The common thread is excellence and the collective energy to challenge the status quo.
Women are showing up and taking up space in security, taking up space in technology, and the Identiv team is here to make our presence known and contribute to that vital conversation about inclusivity.
Leigh Dow, Vice President, Marketing
Women make up more than 50 percent of the United States population. It’s just about the only majority we have. We are only 27.4% of the 117th Congress. We have earned the majority of doctorate degrees for eight consecutive years but only 38% are tenured professors. We make up 45% of legal associates, but only 23% partners. We are 6.6% of the Fortune 500 CEOs and only 7% of their top leadership. Recently, experts announced we will probably have to wait another 99 years to close the wage gap.
Throughout my career in tech, I have often been the only woman in the room, and it took me some time to find my voice. Then I took a course on situational leadership that completely changed my perspective. I stopped thinking about qualities being inherently masculine or feminine and learned how to flex my style depending on the situation. Establishing my own leadership presence through a balance of energy allowed me to become the person around the table at meetings people listen to, a person people follow, and someone people want to continue to work with.
Not assigning a particular type of energy to a gender means challenging some age-old stereotypes that disempower women. Creating more gender balance in the business world often means challenging these stereotypes. Fortune magazine did a review of employee performance evaluations across industries. They found criticism related to personality traits, rather than job-related skills, in 71 of the 94 yearly reviews received by women. Of the 83 reviews received by men, personality criticism only showed up twice. Twice.
Diversity without action is meaningless, that’s why the 2021 International Women’s Day hashtag, #ChooseToChallenge, is spot on. Time will not solve these challenges, only action will. Choose to challenge when people inject misinformation into the workplace that qualifies, limits, or restricts what you bring to the table. Challenge leaders of all genders to accept today’s diverse talent. Women don’t lack education, skills or business acumen — we are already empowered, so challenge yourself to live that truth.
Moving up in the corporate world takes hard work — oftentimes, harder than our male counterpoints because in many industries we are fighting our way into the boys’ club. You might call that kind of person assertive, driven, ambitious, but there’s nothing girly about it. Someone who did this very well was Ruth Bader Ginsberg. I would like to leave you with her three rules for leadership…
KNOW YOUR VALUE AND PURPOSE.
ACCEPT NO EXCUSES.
OWN YOUR AMBITION.
Mary Grace “MG” Karch, Director of Federal Sales
I will never forget the morning of Tuesday, September 11, 2001. I hurried the kids out the door for school. There was an 8 AM doctor appointment to make followed by a busy day of customer meetings in DC. Hopefully the doctor would be on time. If not, I would be headed straight into the height of the morning rush hour traffic by the time I got near the Pentagon. The rest of the morning happened in slow motion. I recall hearing the nurses discussing something that was happening in New York as I checked out. Next I remember sitting in my car feeling stunned by radio reports of two planes hitting the World Trade Center. I knew my children were safe, but when I couldn’t use my cell phone to reach other family members the panic started building. My reaction was to stop at the grocery store, get as much cash as I could at the bank, and go straight back home. Later that morning we hung our American flag on the front porch. By the end of the day almost every house on our street had put out their flag.
From that day forward my deep sense of patriotism drew me to the security industry. I had come extremely close to being right by the Pentagon on 9/11. We knew families who lost a loved one. Everyone could share first-hand stories of the terror they felt when they were unable to contact a spouse, parent or child for hours, sometimes days. The world had changed. I began looking for a way to use my experience in federal IT sales to help bring the best security technologies to the fight. I found a start-up with game-changing video analytics technology. A year later, we closed a deal to deploy it across the entire northern border. It was an incredible time to be in security and it’s been an incredible journey since then. Technologies have evolved and matured, but more importantly, I still feel just as drawn and excited to work with such dedicated professionals.
Women have come such a long way in the security industry over the past 20 years. I was often the only woman in a meeting. Today, there is much more diversity within both the private sector and the government. I find there are many more female leaders across roles in physical security. It is fantastic to see many more organizations today for women in security. We need to network and build a “girls’ club” to support one another while fostering the next generation of security leaders. There is no longer any doubt that women can achieve and contribute just as much as our male counterparts in the security industry.
On International Women’s Day, let’s celebrate our natural instincts and talents, recognizing that women do have innate skills when it comes to communicating, understanding, building strong relationships, and passion for the people and things we deeply care about. Let’s always remember to cheer each other on. And on March 8th, let’s allow ourselves a few moments to recognize the importance of all we do for our families, friends, co-workers, and country. Great job Ladies!
Vera Mauerberger, Product Manager, Transponders
Back in kindergarten, I remember feeling sad about not being allowed to play in the building area, casually known as “the boys’ playground”. I saw the cliché come to life, that the world of technology is a man's world, but even back then I did not buy it. I have always been proud of my fascination and understanding of technical topics.
Today, I work with a team that does not treat me based on my gender, a team that treats everyone equally, a team that does not require a woman to “prove” herself in order to work in the technology and security industry — my work speaks for itself.
Being good at what I do makes me feel strong, and not because I am breaking that cliché, but rather because I get to work in such an impressive, inspiring industry every day. Although I have to admit, working with other women in the security technology sector always feels a little bit like being a member of a secret club who managed to play in the building area.
Husna Smith, Sales Director
I’ve always worked in male-dominated environments since early in my sales career. As a woman in the security industry, I found I have become accustomed to this and am not hyper conscious of this fact. The confidence I’ve gained throughout the years has come from knowing that I have agency, and to put my focus on what I can control for the best outcome possible. I believe that it’s important to connect on a human level with a person, to focus on similarities, and how we can come together to accomplish something greater for the company, ourselves, and our families. Sometimes we have to put ourselves out there, and to not be afraid to speak first, to break the ice in the beginning to get a dialogue going. Don’t look at it as invading or being a disruption to the “boys’ club”. After all, it’s a company, an ecosystem of people who are there to accomplish a mission. It’s our professional and moral duty to show up in an authentic way, always bringing 100% of ourselves, and not showing up “small”. When I have experienced biases in male-dominated environments in my career, I’ve learned that it’s important and necessary to stand in my power, judiciously and professionally challenging beliefs, and that this is necessary. While this isn’t always easy to do, you have a right to be heard. Usually, respect is earned and you get your seat at the table. I find it’s important to not internalize biases when they occur, and this is where resiliency and having self-worth is crucial.
Also, I believe successful women in male-dominated industries, like the security industry, have a unique quality that has been developed and mastered. This is the ability to skillfully navigate landscapes, apply empathy and connection in a way that rallies the troops. I believe women do this every day in some way or fashion. This is like our 6th sense, an instinct which is our superpower. Here’s to supporting each other, challenging biases, taking necessary risks, and celebrating each other’s achievements!
Marsha James, Director, Human Resources
Over the last 25 years, the HR role has shifted from not having a seat at the table to becoming a necessary business partner and organizational leader within most organizations. Although there are more women in leadership roles than ever before, issues of pay equity still exist, along with gender bias and stereotypes within some industries. I’m sure we all agree, we are making progress, evidenced by Kamala Harris, the first female, first Black, first Asian Vice President of the United States of America!
All women should set our sights even higher, and continue to break barriers that still exist. Growing up in a single parent household, my mother never lacked the resolve to accomplish what was before her and she always reminded me and my three siblings that we are not limited by whether we are female, or of a certain skin color, but by what and who we believe in. She always instilled in us that, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).
Ryane Burke, Partner Marketing and Events Manager
James Brown once wrote, “this is a man’s world”; and thankfully, more than 50 years after it was originally penned, that notion is finally starting to change. The security technology industry has forever been a male-oriented profession, but through emerging collectives and opportunities, such as the SIA Women in Security Forum, we’re finally seeing a great shift in our industry. The focus on women elevating other women is crucial to affecting real change — so while I am laser-focused on my own career advancement, I am also committed to working just as hard to help my peers thrive.
Diane Kehlenbeck, Regional Sales Manager
I started my career in the security industry over 30 years ago while working my way through college. I’ve been fortunate along the way to have mentors, both men and women, who have invested in me by taking the time to teach, council, guide, and champion my success. And, while many may think that the industry is male dominated today, we have actually come a long way, baby. If you look across this industry, there are women who are making a difference and impacting change in a range of roles — everything from security officers, to engineers, to project managers, to CEOs. Now is a great time for women to be a part of this incredible industry where we make the world safer and more secure.
Jeanie James, Strategic Sales Manager
The security industry is an exciting place to be, technology is moving rapidly, and the end-user use case is limitless. As a female, I might naturally come across more motherly or nurturing, but my drive for education, sales attainment, and career is fierce. I believe there is a purpose by being in this industry and I love speaking with young people who are designing career paths. My goal is to pay it forward, listening is key, and if I can help someone along the way, the circle is complete. I feel a total sense of community within the security industry and can’t wait to physically see each other, high five, and catch up with folks at the near distant trade show.
Katrina Leight, National Sales Manager
I began my career in the security industry over 20 years ago. I love the fast pace and ever-changing technology, I love constantly learning something new. No two days or projects are ever the same. I have always been inspired by puzzles and, in this industry, I am able to figure out new puzzles every day. I am very lucky to have had some amazing mentors throughout my journey and it is wonderful to see so many more women join the industry each year. I remember just 5 - 7 years ago looking around and realizing I was the only woman at my then-company other than the receptionist. Now, here at Identiv, we have a whole team of women. It feels like we are finally being taken seriously, accepted, and even more so, respected. I highly recommend anyone who is interested in constant change, learning new technologies, and meeting new people on a daily basis to choose a career in security technology. You will not regret it.