DEIA in Cybersecurity (S2:E49)
February 2, 2023
We’re excited to welcome Hermence Matsotsa, Founder and CEO of uBuntu, to today’s episode. Hermence is a multilingual speaker, global strategic intercultural connector, executive coach, and a DEIA consultant with 20+ years of experience supporting leaders in creating diverse, inclusive, equitable, accessible, and safe spaces that vitalize a culture of genuine respect. She joins us to discuss the importance of DEIA in cybersecurity recruiting.
You are listening to Humans in Tech. Our podcast explores today's most transformative technology and the trends of tomorrow, bringing together the brightest minds in and outside of our industry. We unpack what's new in physical access, identity verification, cybersecurity and IoT ecosystems. We reach beyond the physical world, discuss our digital transformation as a species, and dive into the emerging phygital experience. Join us on our journey as we discover just how connected the future will be and how we will fit into that picture. Your host is Leigh Dow, VP of Global Marketing at Identiv.
Leigh Dow (00:43):
Thank you for tuning in today. Today we're welcoming Hermence Matsotsa. She's a multilingual speaker, English, French, and Spanish, and is a global strategic intercultural connector, a DEIA consultant, speaker, and global executive leadership coach. Hermence has 20 plus years of experience working with and supporting leaders in global agencies and businesses to create diverse, inclusive, equitable, accessible and safe spaces that vitalize a culture of genuine respect, belonging, collaboration, and personal organizational growth. Wow, Hermence, it's so nice to have you on our Humans in Tech podcast. We really like to cover all aspects of the industry, including DEIA and how it pertains to recruitment and cybersecurity. So, we're so really excited to have you here.
Hermence Matsotsa (01:31):
Thank you. Thank you for having me on your show.
Leigh Dow (01:34):
Well, it's such an important topic in recruitment, particularly in cybersecurity because we really do need to do a much better job of bringing different voices to the table in this industry. And DEIA is actually a relatively new way of thinking about what shapes the model workplace and the efforts to lean into human-centric nature of what we do. Why is the topic so important?
Hermence Matsotsa (02:01):
Well, diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility is important not only because it directly affects each one of us, regardless of where we are in the world, but it allows for conversations about one's own sense of identity and how they choose to show up in the workplace, how they choose to identify themselves, and how they genuinely want to live their lives. It forces us to have conversations, what I call brave conversations about the uniqueness that exists within each one of us, the differences, as well as how we can come together being as different as may be or as similar and actually work together. So, DEIA now in the workplace is essential because it allows us to not only come together as colleagues, but it allows us to come in as our authentic selves in order to innovate and to enhance and to drive the missions that we've been hired to do.
Leigh Dow (03:12):
One of your beliefs is the South African philosophy of human connectedness called ubuntu. I am who I am because we all are. Tell us how you apply that to business.
Hermence Matsotsa (03:23):
So ubuntu is a beautiful South African philosophy of human interconnectedness. This idea that if we first see each other, value each other, recognize that we are each individuals, but together we are powerful and strong and can really lend ourselves to solving some of the world's most crucial problems, right? This philosophy, once embedded in an organization not only allows all members of the organization to see each other as equals, to see each other as individuals who are there to be able to contribute to the overall mission, who are bringing their best selves to the job in order to do what they love and do best.
But one crucial part about this philosophy is about connectedness. It allows us to connect with others in order to be better, to advance, to innovate. And so having said that, when I work with individuals, I tell them, let's start at ubuntu, with ubuntu. Let's start with this idea that I see you and I am only as great as valuable as my colleague. I bring in something that will help enhance the whole. So it's a holistic approach that I really encourage all organizations to embrace.
Leigh Dow (05:02):
I really can relate to that philosophy about the connectedness part of it because anybody who's been in a great team environment really understands that even when there's conflict, if it's managed properly and respectfully, it often delivers a much better product or solution.
Hermence Matsotsa (05:21):
Yeah, definitely. The thing that we often forget is that regardless if individuals are working in an organization that they may not be happy with, relationships are built, people come to work and want to be embraced, want to have a sense of community within their organization. A lot of times people say, "We're a family." I wouldn't even say so much family is the term, but more community. People want to feel as though they belong. And in order to feel that way, they have to connect with other people. And so this idea of connecting in order to be better selves and be better employees, and it is crucial. You have to know who you're working with and you have to better yet, appreciate them and value them in order for both of you to be able to do the good work that you've been hired to do.
Leigh Dow (06:24):
Well, I learned very early in my career I had a need to be right. And somewhere in maturing, I learned I actually had just had a need to be heard and that really is part of having a sense of community. Is having a safe space where you feel like your voice matters and you can be heard.
Hermence Matsotsa (06:48):
Yeah, definitely. Definitely. We all want to be heard, seen, valued, respected, and seen as someone who contributes to the success of the world, of the organization, to resolving the problems that exist. We all want to feel good and know that people feel good about who we are. Right? And when it comes to DEIA, not only do we want people to value what we do, but value our authentic selves, who we are and who we decide to be and how we decide to show up. That's also very, very important.
Leigh Dow (07:34):
So, switching gears a little bit, we actually recently won a Fast Company Design Innovation Award for an accessible product and making a product more accessible. And so, it's really something that we're very invested in, and it's worthwhile to note the importance of that A in DEIA. And just about a year ago in June 25th, 2021, president Biden signed an Executive Order 14,035, called Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility in the Federal Workplace. The executive order is really monumental for the disability community and the federal government. And the White House Fact Sheet really lays out some important components. The first one is that it directs the government to become a model employer for individuals with disabilities. Which as massive as the federal workforce is, that's a really big deal.
Second, it includes language to ensure that the federal government is fully accessible and that employees know their rights to request reasonable accommodations. So first of all, what are your thoughts on this executive order?
Hermence Matsotsa (08:43):
It is a wonderful start, it's a great start. And this executive order says many things. First, it says that we see you, we hear you, we've heard you, and we acknowledge the fact that this is something that should have existed before, but we are willing to do this now in order to make your lives better in your workplace. And so this recognition by our government allows us to go beyond the diversity, equity, and inclusion as a lot of us understand it, a lot of people understand it. It says that accessibility is not just something that is part of a particular race, a particular gender, a particular cultural or nationality. When it comes to accessibility, it is something that regardless of who you are, you need to have accommodations that allow you to better do your job.
Because the thing is, we also need to understand that when it comes to diversity, there are so many dimensions to diversity. And oftentimes we hear about the race and gender and sexuality, but there's so much more. There's neurological diversity, there's cultural, there's linguistic, and there's also abilities. And so this executive order speaks to that. It speaks to the idea that those individuals who have disabilities, it be physical or it be neurological or it be seen or unseen, can come to work and be valued and contribute in a way that allows them to do so with their disability. And so, I was very happy when this executive order came out. And as I said, it's a start. Now, it's really up to these federal agencies to really not only buy into it because it seems like a mandate, but we all know that a lot of agencies themselves often find ways to not fulfill the mandate.
Leigh Dow (11:22):
Hermence Matsotsa (11:23):
Yeah, go ahead.
Leigh Dow (11:24):
I was just going to say, so in instances like that or not just instances where companies are asking you, how do you work with organizations and companies to make sure that they do put that focus on such an important initiative?
Hermence Matsotsa (11:37):
Well, the first thing that I do is work with leaders to get them to first embrace, understand what diversity, equity, and accessibility is, and understand the dimensions, as I said, of diversity and accessibility being one of those, because they have to own it first. They have to own it. And then there has to be a sense of accountability. So I'm a leader, I'm accountable for my teams. I'm accountable for these programs and the success of these programs, and I need to make sure that the people that I lead understand that I have embraced this mandate, that I understand the importance of it. So it's really working with those leaders first. And that means sometimes getting them to realize their own biases and understanding the importance of centering the work that they do and centering even their language so that it's inclusive of everyone in their policies, down to emails. The emails that you're writing, what language are you using? Are you excluding individuals out?
I also work a lot with leaders on empathy and communication because it's important for them to understand that everyone has a story and everyone's story is true to them. And just because you may not be able to relate to their story, to relate to their experiences does not mean it is not true and therefore should not be addressed, and therefore you shouldn't advocate for them to have the accommodations or services that they need. And so getting leaders to understand these principles of DEIA, bias and empathy and having accountability is where I start.
Leigh Dow (13:48):
I think that you touched on a lot of things there too, just the unconscious bias that people even have where like you talked about, just phrases or words or things that they use that they just don't even realize maybe things have changed. You can't speak that way anymore, but it's not something that someone's doing maliciously or anything like that, it's just that they don't know what they don't know.
Hermence Matsotsa (14:16):
And oftentimes I find that leaders really and just individuals relate to people based on what is comfortable to them and what they know, and assuming that everyone feels the same way or everyone is going through the similar experience. And so it's being able to break down that mindset. And I share with people that two things can be opposing and still be right.
Leigh Dow (14:50):
That's great. I love that. I love that.
Hermence Matsotsa (14:53):
So it's important to start. And then with those individuals who are part of these organizations where they don't feel like they can engage or can speak up about their needs, it's about also helping to create those psychologically safe spaces. So, how can leaders not only be inclusive, but create psychologically safe spaces, so people can come to them and say, "This is what I need." "This is what I'm seeing." "This is how I want to advocate for someone else." "This is the direction I feel like our organization needs to go in order to be more inclusive." Because if that psychologically safe workplace is not in place, if people don't feel comfortable speaking up in meetings, it doesn't matter how inclusive a leader wants to be, no one's going to speak up and talk about their needs and talk about inclusion and diversity and equity and accessibility and everything else, the organizational challenges. So, one of the first things that a leader needs to do is create that safe space where people can not only show up and be themselves, but speak up for themselves in order to help the organization grow.
Leigh Dow (16:23):
Well, in keeping with that, what are some of the main DEIA operating principles? I know you work with a lot of global executives and CEOs who are trying to meet the needs of their workforce, they're trying to recruit global talent and create that really culturally inclusive and equitable work environment. So, what are those operating principles? And then, how do you work with them to address the biggest challenges in implementing those principles?
Hermence Matsotsa (16:48):
Right. So one of the key operating principles is hiring without discrimination and bias. So that means working with leaders as well as HR to get them to understand that sometimes the way they go by hiring, even if their goal is to diversify their organization, has a lot of bias and discrimination practices within it. So, getting them to understand that. Also closing the wage gap that exists. Not only gender, but also their ethnic-gender gaps, racial, geographic, depending on where an individual comes from, how they identify sometimes that can affect their pay and how much they were offered in the beginning. And then also bringing in diverse people at the C-suite level, at the leadership level.
Understanding that when you have leadership that is diverse not only racially, gender and ethnic, but you are bringing in a diverse mindset, diverse leadership styles that the whole organization can benefit from. And so those are the key principles that I start off with, with leaders and help them implement within their organization, this idea that HR needs to be culturally competent when hiring. And what does that look like? How can they be free of bias, it be conscious or not? How can they go about closing the wage gap that exists within their organization? And sometimes that means also looking at past policies, looking at complaints, and really addressing them and looking at them with a DEIA lens, as opposed to looking at these complaints as though just individuals within the organizations who were disgruntled. Really looking at it as what happened? What could we have done better?
And being accountable. Holding themselves accountable for not only themselves, but their employees, the organization as a whole, their brand and the image that they put out to the world. And let that image be in sync with the image that the staff themselves or the employees themselves have internally of the organization. Because a lot of times there's a discrepancy between the image that's put out and the image that actually exists within the organization. And then last I would say also is that this idea of values. So, understanding our values as an organization and making them human-centered and so that they really drive equity, respect, and belonging and inclusion within the organization.
Leigh Dow (20:23):
I understand that you've worked with some really incredible organizations like the CDC and the Peace Corp. Actually, one of my children had thought about potentially going into the Peace Corps rather than going straight to grad school so I learned a little bit about the process through her, but what was that like? And what did you learn from those experiences that you can apply to other organizations?
Hermence Matsotsa (20:48):
Wow. The Peace Corps, it's something I hold dearly. It's true to my heart because I was like, my father was actually a Peace Corps volunteer and so it's just something that is in my family. I have cousins who joined the Peace Corps, I'm always encouraging. And right now I'm trying to get my younger brother to join the Peace Corps. And why do I love the Peace Corps so much is because it allowed me... At the time I was 19 years old, it allowed me to not only leave the comfort of my home, my community, the United States, but allowed me to go somewhere else where I had to learn the importance of being open to other people, being open to other cultures.
Leigh Dow (21:44):
When you probably thought you already were.
Hermence Matsotsa (21:47):
Exactly. Exactly. I surely did. But once I got there, I realized this world has so much more than I ever could have imagined when I was in the United States in my comfort zone.
Leigh Dow (22:04):
I always wish that more Americans traveled more. Because if you experience people's food and music and arts and the culture, you have just such a better understanding of each other.
Hermence Matsotsa (22:17):
And not only that, you are forced to rely on people that you may have never ever spoken to-
Leigh Dow (22:27):
So very true.
Hermence Matsotsa (22:28):
... if you were in the United States. You're forced to come together and really practice this philosophy of ubuntu, where you see people, you learn to respect people, value people in order to solve problems. And that is what Peace Corps has taught me, and I'm sure has taught other people. And then while you're in another country, you are forced in so many ways to define who you are-
Leigh Dow (23:01):
Hermence Matsotsa (23:03):
... in ways that sometimes are very uncomfortable, but you are continuously looking deep into yourself and finding ways to figure out why you hold certain biases and the importance of getting rid of these biases. And then also in a lot of ways, why you love home so much, why you do love your community. Because I found that every time I travel, when I do come back, I do have varying levels of respect for my community here at home because I see the differences, good or bad, but it teaches me more. And I'm sometimes even more willing to go into my community and work with other fellow Americans in order for us to all be better and to grow. So, Peace Corps has taught me all of that and all the work that I've done with global leaders, with my consulting firm, I remind them that we are all interconnected regardless of where we sit in the world.
And once we're able to realize that and embrace it, then the possibilities are infinite as to what problems we can solve in the world because we're continuously learning from each other. There's diversity in mindset, diversity in experiences, and individuals feel good about teaching others their culture, their sense of being, their sense of identity. And it's an exchange of just what I like to say, just exchange of human centeredness, humanity, an exchange of humanity that has everyone else walking away, hopefully feeling part of the whole part of the collective.
Leigh Dow (25:07):
Well, thank you so much for joining us and sharing your beautiful spirit with us on this episode of Humans in Tech podcast. I think that there's just... It's so wonderful to know that there's people like you out there in the world building all that good energy, so we really appreciate you taking the time out of your day to share your experience with us.
Hermence Matsotsa (25:26):
It has truly been a pleasure. Thank you again for the invitation, and I really love the work that you're doing and the fact that you are bringing these messages to the world and allowing people to really see how they fit in the overall picture and what more they can do to solve the problems that we have here on our-
Leigh Dow (25:52):
We definitely will invite people to check out your profile on LinkedIn and learn more about your consulting company. So, we'll include a link to that in the notes for the podcast. Thank you so much for joining us, and if you enjoyed this podcast, please like and subscribe. We drop new episodes every week.
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Physical security, identity verification, the IoT, the hyperconnectivity of our lives will only grow more pervasive. As technology becomes more automated and experiences more augmented, it's up to us to preserve our humanity and use new tools and trends for good. The only question is, are we up for the challenge?