YARMOUTH, Maine—As part of Security Systems News’ and the Security Industry Association (SIA) Women in Security Forum’s (WISF’s) continuing series highlighting the contributions of women in security, this month’s feature is on Leigh Dow, Vice President, Global Marketing at Identiv. Dow’s role is to “work across the company’s global business units to identify growth and customer acquisition opportunities, and manage the strategy, planning and development of Identiv’s global marketing initiatives,” she told SSN.
The following is an exclusive Q&A with Dow:
SSN: How did you get into and what inspired you to stay in the security industry?
DOW: While in college I worked in the Florida Governor’s Office of Communications, and then post-graduation in legislative affairs in the Office of Sen. Bob Graham. A few years later, I was working for a national law firm in government affairs and was recruited by Intel to join the team managing government affairs activities for the Department of Immigration, Department of State, and Department of Labor. While working at Intel, I completed an MBA in Technology Management, and then moved into marketing and APAC manufacturing roles over my seven-year career there.
Following Intel, I worked in Honeywell Aerospace, and then Corporate Honeywell designing global service delivery. When I left Honeywell, I started a marketing agency, 48 West Agency, and that’s when I started working in security with various security industry clients. That’s where I met Identiv and two years ago joined the team full time.
In addition to Identiv being a great place to work, security is mission critical to where the world is moving – with physical and digital worlds more connected than ever. I’ve always been attracted to industries and companies going through inflection points. At Identiv, everything we do is about connecting and securing the physical world to the digital world. So many security topics are trending: passwordless, connecting the IoT, FIDO, video analytics and more. It’s a great time to be a part of the security industry.
SSN: What has your journey been like in a primarily male-dominated and historically non-diverse security industry?
DOW: My entire career has been in industries that are historically light on female energy, and not very diverse. I think most people don’t spend a lot of time really thinking about the underlying results of that history. For instance, I read a Fortune study on 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 they studied. Of the 83 reviews received by men, personality criticism only showed up twice. Twice!
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. I try to focus on not assigning a particular type of energy to a gender. Believing those stereotypes can lead to making choices and people making choices for you that significantly impact your career. Gender stereotyping does not leverage a person’s strengths, so it is not very empowering. I can’t say my journey in these roles was always smooth or lacked some moments that didn’t sit well with me. I have been at security industry trade shows where I have heard men referring to people as ‘my girls’ or ‘those girls.’ I don’t think it is malicious, I don’t think it is behavior that’s purposefully negative, but I also don’t think they understand how women feel about those kinds of terms still being used. It’s more about educating yourself, and it’s not just women but any kind of diversity, on how you can be a better ally to people who are navigating bringing their diversity to the mix.
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 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.
SSN: What have you found most challenging working in the security industry and how did you overcome it?
DOW: Identiv has a very diverse product portfolio, and the company works in a wide variety of industries. Diving into learning about our products and getting to know our customer base has been a challenge. Also, learning more about our customers’ needs and the specific use cases that we work to solve. The technical teams at Identiv have been wonderful partners in helping me gain that knowledge. From a marketing standpoint, I think I probably face the same challenges in this industry as my peers. Proving the value of marketing and making informed decisions about how we are investing in and prioritizing marketing activity. Marketing tactics are always changing. I participate in marketing associations, keep my digital skills sharp, and do a lot of market research.
SSN: Have you had any role models who have helped you out along the way that you would like to mention?
DOW: I have worked with some remarkable mentors over my career. 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. I have been mentored by men and women that I’ve worked with along the way, and it’s been invaluable.
SSN: What advice would you give other women thinking about getting into the industry or just starting out in the industry?
DOW: 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, to achieve certifications, pursue an advanced degree, etc. Certifications are really important in our industry whether it is program or project management or technical certifications.
The other thing I coach people to do in their development is not 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 roadmap is to get there.
SSN: What are your views on the industry moving forward, both from a diversity perspective and a technology and business perspective during these unpredictable times?
DOW: I’ve worked with a lot of cybersecurity companies in my career in agency life and now with Identiv – but what I’ve noticed is it’s in pockets. I’ve been to several trade shows and customer visits where I felt like a unicorn as one of few women. But there have been other shows where there were lots of women attending, and in senior positions.
The associations are doing a good job of stepping up and trying to lead the way. SIA is a great example, I’m one of their TIME (Talent Inclusion Mentorship Education) mentors and I’ve had a great experience with that 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 someone who is new to the industry and a big corporate life.
Also, you see some companies that have firm diversity and inclusion programs, associations that are stepping up to try to guide security towards that mission. Still, when you go out to any of these companies’ websites, and you look at their leadership teams, it doesn’t look very diverse yet. That doesn’t make sense in a country like the U.S. where more than 50 percent of the population is women and we are graduating with 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?
More recently, the industry has taken strides to increase both racial and gender diversity within the companies that comprise the market. In 2018, for example, the Security Industry Association created the SIA Women in Security Forum to support the participation of women in the industry through the creation of various programs as well as by hosting professional development and networking events.
But despite advances like this, more needs to be accomplished when it comes to changing perceptions about diversity in the industry.
SSN: What do you feel are the top trends, issues or challenges facing the security industry today?
DOW: Finding great talent in an aging industry.
Security converging with IT and the evolving role of the CIO
Supply chain challenges.
Real, true AI in security products.
SSN: Anything else that you would like to add?
DOW: 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 executive club. 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.