Identiv’s Leigh Dow Wants a Clearer Picture of Diversity in the Security Industry

In the latest SECURE Perspectives, Dow shares how to remedy impediments to diversity in the industry, technology trends and more.

SECURE Perspectives is a monthly column by the Security Industry Association (SIA) profiling women in the security industry. This column is part of SIA’s Women in Security Forum (WISF), an initiative to support the participation of women in the security field through programs, networking and professional growth events and thought leadership opportunities.

For this edition of SECURE Perspectives, SIA spoke with Leigh Dow of Identiv. Earlier this year, Dow was named to the inaugural SIA WISF Power 100 list, recognizing 100 women in the security industry who are role models for actively advancing diversity, inclusion, innovation and leadership in the community.

SIA: How did you get into the security industry?

Leigh Dow: I’ve always been attracted to industries and companies going through inflection points. In a world where humans have been protecting people and places for our entire existence, the way we conduct physical security hasn’t changed much in 20 years — our industry is overdue for radical innovation. Much of that innovation will probably come in moving from data to intelligence. That’s exciting.

How does your organization serve the industry?

Security is mission critical to where the world is moving — with physical and digital worlds more connected than ever. At Identiv, everything we do is about connecting and securing the physical world to the digital world.

What is your current position?

My current role is vice president, global marketing at Identiv. I work across our global business units to identify growth and customer acquisition opportunities and manage the strategy, planning and development of Identiv’s global marketing initiatives.

What types of job functions do women fill in your company? Is there diversity of roles in your company, or do women gravitate toward certain job functions?

Identiv is a great place to work. We have women working across all divisions ranging from entry-level positions to middle management and senior leadership. There is much opportunity to grow and excel at Identiv.

With more and more data that shows diversity makes a better workforce, what opportunities do you see for women in the security industry?

I recently read Emily Chang’s book Brotopia. Her opening chapter highlights how women were among the pioneers working in tech during World War II. Security has a profound influence on our world, and the majority of products in our industry have been created by white men. There is an opportunity for women and other diverse voices to be more involved in bringing new perspectives to product design — for instance, in facial recognition, artificial intelligence (AI) and cybersecurity.

What impediments do you see for achieving this? What could remedy some of these impediments?

Despite advances like the formation of the SIA Women in Security Forum in 2018, more needs to be accomplished when it comes to changing perceptions about diversity in the industry.

When you go to security company websites and look at their leadership teams, it doesn’t look very diverse yet. That doesn’t make sense in a country like the United States, where more than 50% of the population is women and we have earned graduate degrees, by and large, over men at a higher rate over the past eight years. The wave is coming of these very educated, capable women who are going to fill those seats, but just when is that tipping point going to happen? What recruiting and management programs do these companies have in place to diversify their workforce?

What do you see as important trends in the industry?

The demand for privacy and trust has never been greater. So many security topics are trending: passwordless, connecting the Internet of Things (IoT), FIDO, video analytics, AI and more. It’s a great time to be a part of the security industry.

More specifically, what trends are you seeing in your company’s space of digital authentication and security?

First, maintaining a robust end-to-end physical access control system while keeping track of shifting identities and roles in any environment. Second, as the world is becoming more connected via the use of Cloud computing services and IoT devices, we have watched cybercrimes skyrocket. Corporations today cannot afford to rely on basic firewalls and antivirus software to ensure data is protected. It is essential to create a more powerful cybersecurity ecosystem.

What are the top challenges your company has faced in the last year?

First, finding great talent. Second, security converging with IT and the evolving role of the chief information officer. Third, supply chain issues, which are forcing the industry to get more creative.

What are the biggest opportunities your company — and the industry — are seeing?

Focusing on the “jobs to be done,” meaning gaining deeper insights into our customers’ needs to deliver products and services with multiple uses and points of value.

What do you hope the SIA Women in Security Forum can achieve for the security industry?

We need to support and encourage more women in the industry by continuing to host professional development and networking events, being mentors and being bold in our actions and words. I’ve had a great experience with mentoring someone who works for a different security company and helping her navigate some of the challenges that she is facing — not just as a woman, but also as someone who is new to the industry and to big corporate life.

I am still constantly challenging age-old, and at this point annoying, stereotypes that disempower women. And sometimes it’s me challenging the women I mentor to remember that they don’t lack education, skills or business acumen — they are already empowered, and they have a seat at the table. 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. We must own those seats and challenge ourselves to keep taking up the space. The SIA Women in Security Forum can lead the way!

What is your best advice for women in the industry?

Moving up in the corporate world takes hard work — often, harder than for our male counterparts because in many industries we are fighting our way into the executive club. Someone who did this very well was Ruth Bader Ginsberg. All women should educate themselves on her three rules for leadership: 1) Know your value and purpose. 2) Accept no excuses. 3) Own your ambition.

Who or what was the strongest influence in your career?

I have been mentored by men and women I’ve worked with along the way, and it’s been invaluable. My best mentors are my close circle of friends, who are very real with each other and help us see our blind spots. I have never been shy about asking for help when I need it – mentors and role models are so important to everyone along their career path. I’ve always taken it upon myself to reach out to people whose careers I admire and who I feel I can learn important career advice from. You would be surprised at how willing people are to help guide you.

How do you define success?

Measuring success is a very personal, individual perspective. I live by a “if you are not getting better, you are getting worse” state of mind. Careers have to be nurtured, invested in and reassessed. It’s a constantly moving target. For me success is a philosophy of always continuing to push myself out of my comfort zone and experiment with new skills, responsibilities and ideas.

What would you say to new upcoming women in the industry?

Something that really stuck with me was Intel’s mantra that “you own your employability” — meaning it’s up to you to keep learning, growing, gaining new skills, challenging yourself and seeking new opportunities.

Whether your company is going to pay for it or you have to pay for it yourself, I’m a big believer in owning your own career and investing in yourself. Anything you can do to be a continuous learner, achieve certifications, pursue an advanced degree, etc. Certifications are really important in our industry, whether they’re in program or project management or technical certifications.

The other thing I coach people to do in their development is to plan for their next two or three jobs so they know what skills they need to pick up in each job leading up to the role. If you look at it that way, then you know what your road map is to getting there.

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