Do Women Have a Strong Grip in the Security Industry?

The recent announcement of Honeywell Security & Communications President JoAnna Sohovich stepping down from her position caught me off-guard. The news comes only months after United Technologies Corp. (UTC) announced that it was combining its Fire & Security business and the Carrier heating and cooling units into UTC Climate Controls and Security Systems. As a result of that merger, Kelly Romano, who at that time had recently been announced as president for the company’s Global Security Products unit, was no longer the top executive in charge.

Both women were only in their positions for a short time. Sohovich served as Honeywell Security’s president for a year and some change. Romano was on board for roughly four months. This really hit home for me, as I consider myself as a newbie to the electronic security field with a little more than a year under my belt at SECURITY SALES & INTEGRATION.

It was only a few months ago at ISC West that I attended the Women’s Security Council‘s “The Woman’s Handbook to Professional Success in the Security Industry” panel. Sohovich served as a panelist for that forum, along with Sandy Jones, principal of Chardon, Ohio-based consulting firm Sandra Jones & Co., and Linda Mansillo-Kear, global director, marketing communications, Tyco Security Products. As I listened to these women speak so confidently about being successful in a male-dominated industry, I was truly encouraged.

Fast-forward a few months to the quick turnover of these two leaders, and now I began to ponder whether there is trouble in the horizon for women in the industry. As it stands, SSI‘s 2010 Security Industry Demographic Census reported that women only represent 10 percent of the entire trade.

So, I reached out to Jones, who is also a member of SSI’s Editorial Advisory Board, to see how she felt about the matter. She’s been a big name in the industry for decades, so I figured she would have a little more insight about the situation and possibly ease my fears — and I was right!

“There has been a lot of turnover in our marketplace recently with some consolidations and acquisitions,” Jones said. “Tyco recently divided into three businesses and UTC went through a restructuring of people, so there is some shuffling going on — but there is always shuffling in this market. I think we just happened to notice these two situations because there are so few women at the leadership level.”

Women’s Security Council Founding Committee Member Rhianna Daniels, who has served in the security industry for more than eight years, shared similar thoughts.

“It’s not uncommon for top-tier executives to transition in-and-out of companies over time,” she explained. “Because of that, I don’t think the issue is specific to female professionals. The fact that these women held senior-level roles demonstrates the opportunity for women to grow into executive leadership positions with global organizations.”

Daniels, who started out as an editor for a security trade publication, notes that most women she has spoken to “fell” into the security market. And, while it’s been challenging keeping up with the latest trends and technologies, working in the industry has been rewarding to Daniels, as well as other women in the field.

“I’ve heard women say that this market wouldn’t have been their first choice,” she explained. “But once integrated into the industry, all find that there are great opportunities for women. Many have noted that the market opportunities for women in security are rapidly growing. You see it on the trade show floor and you see it through the increased number of women in senior level positions. We fully expect this trend to continue and believe that it only helps diversify the market.”

For her part, Jones believes women will continue to have success in the security industry; however, there needs to be more of an effort to bring more women into the fold.

“I think this is a great industry for women to participate in,” she said. “We just don’t have a logical path to bring them into the marketplace. There is no recruiter saying, ‘Hey, come and join the security industry!’ Maybe now that’s an opportunity we need to create.”

After speaking with Jones and Daniels, I thought of the other successful female executives that are currently making a mark in industry right now, including Vector Security President Pam Petrow, Protection 1 Chief Marketing & Customer Experience Officer Jamie Haenggi, SDA Security President Shandon Harbour (a member of SSI‘s Editorial Advisory Board) and many others. So, although there is still a long road to travel to help more women break into the industry, we’re ready to continue pounding that pavement.

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