Strengthening Security’s Sisterhood: How These 3 Women Are Thriving in the Industry

Women are slowly but surely making inroads to better integrate the traditionally male-centric security industry. Here’s how Hikvision’s Kristen Cory, Qin Wang and Marianne Chew are succeeding.

It’s not secret that in general, the ratio of women to men in the security industry does not reflect the ratio of women to men in the workforce. This is particularly true at the dealer/integrator company owner, executive and management levels.

Security Sales & Integration’s last Industry Census from 2014 showed those roles tipped toward men by a ratio of greater than 9-1. It’s a situation SSI has covered before, but not in several years (see “Do Women Have a Strong Grip in the Security Industry?”).

The mix is a little more balanced in other areas of the electronic security channel, such as on the manufacturing side. “When I joined Hikvision in 2016 after a decade as an editor at a security business publication, I quickly noticed the number of women in leadership positions in the company,” says Hikvision Senior Manager Strategic Communications Martha Entwistle.

The Chinese video surveillance products leader serves as the backdrop for a look at how women are making strides toward equal representation as security professionals.

Just ahead you will meet Kristen Cory, director, A&E business development team, Hikvision USA and Canada; Qin Wang, regional manager, Ontario, Hikvision Canada; and Marianne Chew, events manager, Hikvision North America.

Their educational backgrounds and career paths to the security industry are unique, but their stories share some common themes. They describe a corporate culture at Hikvision that is family-friendly and recognizes, cultivates and rewards initiative for men and women alike.

Smart and driven, these women are undaunted by a male-dominated industry that some might consider old-fashioned. They discuss what they like about the security field, give frank assessments of the challenges of balancing work and family and the importance of having a well-defined support system, and bemoan how many people pass judgment on working women.

Theirs are stories of personal success, but at the same time they also give kudos to their employer as a company that provides equal opportunity for its associates and ample reward for hard work.

Projecting as Project Pro

According to Cory, one of the attractions of working in the physical security industry is “you have visibility and access to projects that play a big part in protecting our society.”

Whether it’s “a high security facility like a correctional institution or a border crossing, or a national retail chain,” she says, “having a hand in securing these facilities is endlessly interesting and personally rewarding.”

In her current role, Cory is involved in these kinds of projects daily. And beyond security, she likes the fact that video surveillance solutions can also make end users’ operations very efficient.

The ratio of work to family time depends on how fast you want to climb the corporate ladder. It’s tough to do both well; one side always suffers at the expense of the other. ― Kristen Cory

“Video surveillance goes way beyond the traditional physical asset protection. Cameras are now used for business intelligence and providing data for analysis to improve business operations. I enjoy seeing how effective and efficient we can make an operation with the solutions we provide.”

Cory’s initiative and success earned her a major promotion. In 2015, she started out as an A&E business development manager for Hikvision Canada. Two years later she was promoted to the company’s director of enterprise sales, and recently Cory was named director, A&E Business Development Team for North America.

Cory is accustomed to going into a meeting with new people and having questions, especially technical questions, directed to the males in the room.

“I typically will jump at the opportunity to answer the questions, and it’s always fun to note the change in dynamics within the room. This is traditionally a male-dominated industry, and that’s OK. I see more and more technical women joining the security world every day and they will help pave the way for our next generation. Typically, I jump in and try to answer the technical questions first in order to establish credibility.”

Based in Ottawa, Cory travels frequently for work despite having two children. Asked about balancing work and family life, she says, “The ratio of work to family time depends on how fast you want to climb the corporate ladder. It’s tough to do both well; one side always suffers at the expense of the other.”

However, she points out this is a concern “for both women and men.” Women are often held to a different standard, she adds. “One of the more difficult challenges is the judgment from others when they hear how much you are away from home. That’s tough for sure, especially when males don’t get judged in the same way. But times are changing and it is much more accepted and common now than it was 30 years ago.”

The key is support and understanding at home, she says. “All I can say is if you have kids you need good support back home to make it work. You can’t be a career woman without it.”

Cory believes more needs to be done to increase awareness about the security industry in high schools and colleges, and to create programs that prepare students for jobs in security. Outreach to area schools is something she is planning to do in the future.

“If you work hard and get an opportunity with the right company, this industry is quite amazing and very rewarding financially and intellectually,” Cory says. “Young people and women, especially, need to learn about this industry and the opportunities for personal and professional growth.”

Selling Self in Sales

According to Wang, confidence is an important key to success at work and at home. “People say sales is a high-pressure job, but I feel more motivation than pressure,” she says.

It helps when you are enamored with your company and the products you sell. “When you feel good and confident, customers feel confident, and that’s very important.”

Wang grew up in China and has an undergraduate degree in electrical engineering and a graduate degree in IT. When she accepted a sales job at Hikvision in 2010, she was one of the firm’s first employees in Canada.

With no existing Hikvision dealer base, Wang started making those calls, introducing herself and the company to dealers one at a time. She built the base in her territory by getting to know dealers’ businesses, providing technical, sales and engineering support, and helping them win projects.

Wang’s methodical, thorough, grassroots strategy has proven to be extremely successful. Wang says she was not initially interested in sales, turned off by the idea of having to “meet a certain number.”

But once she took the Hikvision sales job in Canada, “I did not focus on the number. I focused on the dealers, how they build their business and how they win projects. I enjoyed the process and the result [meeting and exceeding quotas] came by itself.”

Wang says she has a partnership with the dealers. “We are an extension of each other’s business.” Integrator partners promote Hikvision, while Wang and her team are on call when an integrator partner needs assistance.

Asked about being a woman in the security industry, Wang notes that she came to security from the telecom industry. “There are even fewer women in telecom,” she says. In security manufacturer sales, technology know-how is vital. An effective salesperson also needs to “put herself in the customer’s shoes” to really understand their needs.

You need to communicate well and multitask. Women are well suited to executive sales roles, Wang says. A “big ship” that provides a “stable, high platform for employees” is one way Wang refers to her employer. And she views her associates as a determined, hard-working group that reinforces the strength and capability of the company.

“Hikivison headquarters is very close to my hometown in China,” says Wang. “I’m very proud of the company and how it has grown. When I talk to customers I think they can sense my pride and confidence, and when you’re in that mode you’re capable of doing many things.”

Wang did a fair amount of traveling for work, especially in the early years, and she worked long hours. She believes she’s set a good example for her two children, who are both happy and positive with their school and the sports and music activities in which they participate.

“I’ve always told my kids whatever you choose to do, you have to be interested. Try your best to do a good job and enjoy the process,” she says. “I do feel our enthusiasm with work is a best way to teach and influence our kids.”

I’ve always told my kids whatever you choose to do, you have to be interested. Try your best to do a good job and enjoy the process. I do feel our enthusiasm with work is a best way to teach and influence our kids. ― Qin Wang

Evening Events Field

Chew’s career has taken off at Hikvision. With a background in event planning for marketing agencies, she joined the company in 2015 as senior event specialist.

She quickly took on more responsibilities and earned a promotion to her present position, responsible for managing a growing team of events and engagement professionals.

Chew executes hundreds of events of all sizes in locations around North America annually, and she travels frequently. Being a professional working woman is “truly a balancing act in many ways,” she says. “In regard to family life and the home, there is an innate expectation for women to work as well as maintain the home, be a caretaker and spend quality time with their loved ones.”

Her professional career is extremely important to her. “I take pride in the work that I do and produce for Hikvision. However, I also was raised in a family that values quality time. Eating a home-cooked meal together every night at the dinner table is huge for my family and is something that I cherish and want for my own family.”

Chew lives in Los Angeles and works at Hikvision’s headquarters office in City of Industry, Calif. “To work in L.A. where traffic is notorious and be dedicated to your career can be challenging,” she says. “Making it home at a decent hour to prepare a meal together and spend time with my fiancé can get tricky. Although I don’t have children yet, I imagine this balancing act won’t get any easier. I am thankful that I have a supportive family and partner who understand my dedication to my career and to doing good work.”

In the security industry where women are a clear minority presents a different kind of balancing act, Chew says. “If a woman is too assertive, she can be labeled in a negative light. If a woman is not assertive enough she is seen as not being strong enough or capable to handle major challenges.”

There’s also the stereotype in the security industry and elsewhere that women are not technically savvy. That’s nonsense, according to Chew. Even in a nontechnical role such as hers, understanding the company’s technology and how the corporate strategy relates to the products is essential to designing and executing successful events.

Advances in imaging, thermal technology and video analytics intrigue her. One of the reasons, she says, is seeing the societal benefits of the technology.

“I am proud to work for an industry that possesses the features and benefits that can stop crime and catch criminals, and I think it’s amazing how far the technology has come. It’s technology that can help people.”

Chew says her company is loaded with female colleagues who speak intelligently about technologies and products. “From my perspective and experience, Hikvision has shown respect and appreciation for women in the workforce.”

Women Leadership Is Logical

A 2016 Peterson Institute for International Economics study showed a correlation between having women in leadership roles and corporate success. The study examined 22,000 public companies and concluded “results suggest that the presence of women in corporate leadership positions may improve firm performance and that the magnitudes of the correlations are not small . . . this pattern under-scores the importance of creating a pipeline of female managers and not simply getting lone women to the top.”

Those are just some of the many reasons why all companies in the electronic security industry should make an effort to not only hire more women but also encourage and enable them following security as a career path.

Those in this article have all clearly set a powerful example for their families and children, as well the industry and working women in general. The security industry benefits from diversity, especially from people like Cory, Wang and Chew.

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One response to “Strengthening Security’s Sisterhood: How These 3 Women Are Thriving in the Industry”

  1. In this month celebrating Women’s History Month, it is great to see this article focusing on strong women in the security industry. I have been a business owner in the security space for 18 years. I have been called derogatory names, been treated with disdain and completely objectified even as an executive in my field. But over the past 3-4 years, I have noticed a positive change. More and more women are in our industry and they are wicked strong!

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