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HID Connects Podcast Episode 1: Does the Security Industry Have a Diversity Problem?

Welcome to HID Connects!

HID Connects is a podcast designed to bring you the latest news and trends in the security space. Our goal is to not only equip you with information and best practices, but also open new conversations on topics shaping our industry.

Joining us for our first episode are HID’s Vice President of People Partnering, Victoria Hayes, and Arin Lopez, HID’s Director of Diversity and Inclusion. They will explore the important question: Does the security industry have a diversity problem?

Take a minute to listen below. And while you’re at it, be sure to subscribe to receive future episodes.

Here is a transcript if you’d like to read along:

Matt (Host):
Hello everyone! Good morning, good afternoon, good evening — whatever time it is and wherever in the world you may be. My name is Matt Winn, Senior Director of PR and Corporate Communications here at HID. But forget that long title and just consider me your resident secure identities nerd and humble podcast host. We are particularly excited to have you join us for our debut, premiere, inaugural, very first ever episode of HID Connects — a podcast designed to bring you the latest news and trends impacting the security space.

Our goal with this podcast is to not just equip you with information and best practices, but also open up new conversations on hot topics shaping our industry. Now, the format is quite simple. Each episode, our correspondents from across the globe will share insights into a hot topic of choice in the form of a roundtable discussion. My job is simply to facilitate and ask questions.

So, all you need to do is pay attention to my guests who have way more answers than I do. Without further ado, let's get started, shall we? Introducing today's burning question, and that is, “Does the security industry have a diversity problem?”

Joining me today are two experts on the topic, and not to mention, two of my very favorite people at HID. First, dialing in from the UK is Victoria Hayes, HID’s Vice President of People Partnering.

Say hi, Victoria. Give us a quick intro.

Hi Matt. Thanks so much for welcoming me on your debut podcast. Really excited to talk about this conversation. Yes, in my role I lead the global People Partnering Team; so ultimately our managers and employees will deal with somebody within my team for their full employee lifecycle experience at HID.

Awesome. Thanks for joining us. Excited to have you. And joining us virtually from Phoenix, Arizona, is Arin Lopez. He's HID’s Director of Diversity and Inclusion. Arin, mind saying hello and giving a quick intro to our listeners?

Hi Matt. Thanks for having me. I think it's great that you said there are two of your favorite people here. That's quite exciting. But yes, I am in Phoenix, and I've worked with HID for a short amount of time. This is a new role for HID, so I'm very excited to be the inaugural candidate that fills this role. And really, we're just laying the groundwork and getting things started. So I have a lot to talk about, and I'm excited to hear what you all have to say as well on the topic.

Amazing. Thank you both favorites for joining. All right. Very good. So, Victoria, first question is for you. Let's just dive into it. Overall, what's your take on diversity in the security industry?

I think I can speak from my perspective. I've spent 17 years within the industry across various divisions of our organization. And I think, really, we're in this interesting juxtaposition whereby we're both in the security industry but also in the technology industry. So I think we have different levels of maturity depending on how we are viewing our progress in each of these different areas.

When I think about what's worked up until this point historically, I can determine those as kind of what you depict as masculine traits. So in the security industry, it's been very much about competitiveness or having that additional assertiveness or that authority to act. I'm not speaking when I say masculine traits as any sort of gender, but more about how we are characterizing the behaviors that we have.

I can recognize myself as having some of those behaviors throughout my career. I think what we're now starting to see is that what's gotten us this far isn't going to take us where we need to be going forward. There needs to be not “either or,” but “and.” What I mean by that is when I speak about perhaps more feminine traits, it's really focusing on that emotional empathy, that warmth.

For that person or that situation, we focus much more on the collective thought rather than just only on the individual gains. So when I think about the take on diversity in the security industry, I see that we're grappling with these two worlds and how we balance and mix both of them in our everyday lives going forward. That's a bit of a shift from where we've come from, but I think it's a much-needed shift to take us to where we want to go.

Absolutely. That's a really interesting take, especially as you see the blending of cyber and physical security. And what does that mean as we become more technologically and digitally focused? Thanks for sharing your insights on that. Arin, same question to you. What's your take on diversity in the security industry?

Well, I don't know that I would call it a problem, because when we talk about what diversity is, we're really just talking about variety. So you know, diversity is the condition of having or being composed of differing characteristics or viewpoints. And so we have diversity already here. The thing is, how are we leveraging that diversity? How are we celebrating that diversity? How are we elevating some of the voices that may not always be elevated? We may not always hear them or consider their opinions.

I fully agree with Victoria that it's important for us to have diversity and ensure that inclusion is a part of everything that we do, because when you think about it, diversity and inclusion are super important because companies that practice diversity, inclusion — those that really put a focus on it — are 83% more likely to have more innovation. There's, really, the case for diversity. Inclusion has already been made. There is a ton of data out there that says that this is what companies need in order to thrive and succeed. So it's important for us to recognize that and to embrace that it's not going away. To prevent our companies from going away, we need to embrace it.

Absolutely. Now Arin, expanding upon that, what do you see as some of the biggest opportunities to make for a more inclusive landscape?

Well, I think that it's important that we take a look at the systems. I don't think this is about changing people's beliefs or making other people believe what I believe or vice versa. This is not about making people believe any particular train of thought. This is about recognizing that there are a lot of viewpoints that are out there.

And how do we hear those viewpoints? How do we allow for those viewpoints, along with the space to feel safe and to speak up? I think we need to look at our systems that we have in place in order to achieve that. So, we're looking at talent acquisition, we're looking at retention and we're looking at internal mobility. With promotions, for example, we're looking at who gets special projects, as well as internal systems to make sure that we're elevating the people who deserve to be elevated. And really, it's more of this and less about changing people's belief systems.

Right. Victoria, what are your thoughts? What do you think are some of the biggest opportunity areas that we have?

I would agree with Arin that our systems are going to be completely looked at in terms of where we can seek to build diversity of thought into all areas of our process and make sure that, you know, any unconscious biases that we might have or not be aware of are definitely brought to the forefront. One of the things I was thinking through when you were asking that question, Matt, was really about three key areas that conveniently are alliterative.

First, representation. People want to see it to believe it. Look at some of the recent sporting events that have gone on where there's been quite a lot of high press coverage around women's football and the surge of that. You know, there was a huge strapline of build it and they will come. I think in this case with representation, people need to see that there are people like them around leadership tables making decisions.

I think the second one would be around role modeling. So once you've got those people in those roles, how active are they to really start to address some of the areas or even give some more attention to some of these areas so that they are empowered to do the things that they feel needs to be done?

Then we go from role modeling those behaviors to finally reinforcing them. What do I mean by that? I think we've seen the surge of this over the last couple of years, for example, with activities publicly shared on LinkedIn where people are feeling much more open to be able to speak about their values, their positions and how that influences the decisions they take. Even some companies are going as far as making public declarations or statements. But I think whichever medium you choose, it's the actions that you take — it's not just lip service — that it actually boils down to what tangible systems improvements and approaches you're going to do in your organization that have that value-added impact.

You bring up a really interesting point with the three Rs — and I love alliteration — that's always a good thing too. The first one you mentioned was representation. You hear a lot — whether it's media or other forms of publications — that representation matters. That seemed to have been this kind of abstract concept for a while, but the more that you talk about it, the more concrete it becomes. So in your mind, are there any specific groups within the security industry that do need more representation? And if so, what may those groups be?

I think when we think about representation, it's really about making sure that there is balance and equity at the table. So if you're making decisions, make sure the people who are going to be impacted are really going to have a voice at that table because there might be cultural nuances and there might be decisions that need to be made that need those insights.

Just to build on what something Arin said earlier, there is no hierarchy when it comes to diversified thought. It’s about having that welcome representation around that table, and it's also about having the opportunity to listen and feel like you can have a voice and impact around that table. So in terms of groups that are perhaps not as represented, I think it depends — are we talking about a local decision? Are we talking about a regional decision? Are we talking about a global decision?

And it's making sure that the impacts that we want to have, all the thoughts are given the consideration that's needed to have the best possible outcome so that we don't get stuck in the in the echo chambers that potentially could exist in those silos.

Arin, what's your take on that in terms of are there any specific groups that may need more representation?

I think that there are. I think, for example, when we're designing our products, there's a need to have people who live with different accessibility requirements than others. And so, if you're putting a flashing LED light on one of your products and you know that that causes somebody to have seizures or triggers them in some way, then that type of input needs to be considered. It's hard to consider that if you don't identify with that particular group of people. When we look at product design, that's one thing that we can do.

The other thing is that the people designing the products, again, they all come from different backgrounds, they all have different experiences. I think we need to elevate the idea that there are great designers and engineers that are out there on the technical side that could contribute immensely, but we just haven't tapped into that yet. So yes, I do think there are underrepresented groups out there.

Another thing that I want to mention is that everybody has an identity. And sometimes we even have several identities. So when we talk about including everybody's identities, this isn't just about including minorities. This isn't just about including people based on skin color or something. Along those lines, we're also talking about our industry having a lot of veterans and military folks who have served their time in the military and served their countries. What types of needs do they have? These people have seen some things that the rest of us will never see in our lives. How do we support them in the workplace? How do we tap into their creativity? How do we tap into their knowledge and use that to really better a company?

There are a lot of things that I think that we could do to ensure that all identities are heard, visible and considered. The thing is, I think that first there's an education process that needs to happen, where we really need to educate folks and let them know that diversity isn't just about minorities. Instead, it's about elevating voices that have typically been silenced. I think a lot of us have felt that at some point, so I think there should be a focus on ensuring that we are listening to those voices.

Excellent. Arin, you mentioned there are a lot of things that could be done. There are a lot of things that we can consider to be done. I'm very proud to work for a company that allows us to have these conversations recorded. Podcasts like this and Arin, having a role like yours, is a vital part of the organization. So in a nutshell, how might you summarize some of the actions that HID is doing to address this issue within our own four walls?

Well, the first thing that we're doing is we're making a commitment to have a dedicated staff member to look into this. This is not something that we can just put on someone's plate as a side job. There has to be a commitment there, first of all. And that starts with senior leadership.

So I am also very proud of HID that we have led the way with that. We are a hybrid type of company where we are in the tech industry, but also in the security industry. When you look at us from the tech industry perspective, you start to think, okay, well, a lot of tech companies have done a lot of this work previously. From that perspective, we're a little bit behind the curve.

But when you look at the security industry, which is where we're most closely associated, this is not something that a lot of companies have in place already — in other words, having dedicated FTE for diversity and inclusion. So we're on the forefront, and I'm very proud to say that we'd like to be one of the best practices companies that people can look to us and say, “Okay, here's what they're doing.” Dedicating a full-time employee to that is super important in making that commitment.

Now that I'm here, one of the things that we're doing is focusing on educating all of our talent about what diversity and inclusion mean and their importance within our company and within our industry. We're also examining the systems that we have to ensure that they're equitable. And the other thing is that we are keen to create a culture where everyone is — I keep saying it over and over again — where everyone is equally visible, heard and considered.

So those are the steps that we're taking, and there are many projects and things that we're doing within those areas. But those are the most important things to make sure we have the foundation needed to ensure that we are weaving and rooting diversity and inclusion into everything that we do.

Now Victoria, Arin mentions a lot of exciting positive momentum and trajectory. In the larger landscape of the industry, are there any glimmers of hope that you see right now in creating a more diverse and inclusive landscape for the security and/or technology industry?

I think you can start to see a real emergence of people willing to have the conversation. I think before it's been, “Well, I don't know the answers, or I don't know if I'm going to potentially touch upon a point that would trigger a different reaction. So I'll stay clear of not even having the conversation at all.” And I think we then saw a lot of really important topics just go unaddressed in this gap of silence.

In that case, people will fill that gap with their own narratives and their own stories. I think what we're starting to see now is people are really coming forward and bringing that whole person to work. They are feeling safe and secure to be able to share more of themselves, wanting to re-engage, reconnect and re-collaborate, and doing that through their social media channels and voicing some of the things that really matter to them.

On sites like LinkedIn, for example, people are starting to have some of those conversations with colleagues that they haven't had before. So I think by removing some of those boundaries and providing that education, it has almost freed up a different way that employees and people can actually start to engage with each other at a more human level. Because whether it's building communities of practice where people want to align around something they're passionate about, or if they're just really interested in somebody’s completely different opinion that may shed a completely different innovation on a topic, it all matters and it all adds value. What I'm saying is that it's much more at the forefront of people's thought processes, whereas perhaps previously it was a little bit more hidden or not really spoken about. So I'm really encouraged by that.

That's great. You mentioned the human element and community. We recently sponsored an event through the Security Industry Association known as acceleRISE. I had the opportunity to go on stage and present one of the speakers from a different corporation that was talking about negotiation. And of course, I had our elevator pitch ready to go describing who we are and what we do.

But once I looked into the audience and saw a lot of different people of different ages and backgrounds, it was really inspiring and it really gave me that glimmer of hope. So I changed the speech just to be able to say, “Wow, how refreshing is it to see this pipeline of talent that's coming through the industry, whether it's through the integration side, the technology side or the manufacturing side?”

I think that there is a lot of change taking place in our space, right in front of our eyes, and it's very exciting to see that. Arin — question over to you — as part of that event, we actually talked about what different ways that younger people can advance their career in the security industry. So what advice might you have for individuals within some marginalized groups hoping to advance their career in our space?

That's a tough one to answer because I come from a minority group in several ways. A lot of times it's not up to us to educate others or to always be the ones advancing the agenda. It's got to be a team effort. So as far as what kind of hope and what kind of advice I can give, it's first having those conversations. As Victoria mentioned, just having the conversation is important.

The other thing is that I really think that people should try to hold out hope. I know that's hard when you go to work every single day and you may feel like you're the only one who's there. But I think holding out hope in your mind is very helpful. In order to help do that, it's important for us to seek out people who share our identity or are an ally to our identity. When you reveal a little bit more about yourself at work, I think that people will be surprised that there are so many others that either identify with us or are friendly to us. I think being vulnerable is a really, really good way to build trust. So to share a little bit more at work is a step toward that vulnerability and trust-building.

The other thing is, once you gain the confidence of having someone near you that you can relate to and that you can talk to, that builds some confidence, that builds some strength. And then together, I think it's important for you to start speaking up. It's important that we start speaking on some of these topics and maybe it's not standing on a stage speaking, but maybe it's just in the break rooms or during a Teams chat while you're waiting for a meeting to start. Those types of things are just as effective.

When I talk about speaking up, I mean things like sharing a little bit about your family, maybe sharing a little bit about your friendship circle or sharing a little bit about your experiences because we connect with other humans by sharing a little bit more about ourselves. I think that a lot of people are looking to connect, especially since a lot of us are working remotely or we may not be in the office as much as we used to be. For instance, I'll ask people about photos that they have in their background for their web calls. You know, a question as simple as that is something that allows people to share and be a little bit more vulnerable.

On another topic, I would like to have us chat about things that others can do that are in the dominant group. What are some things that those folks can do to embrace all of this? That's the part that I think is key. When we talk about being intentional with learning and changing some of the phrases that we're using — listening to others’ experiences and seeking out colleagues who are different from our typical peer group — these are all things that people that are in well-represented groups can do in order to embrace diversity and inclusion as well.

Very insightful. Thank you. So final question to you both, which is actually the first question and the name of this episode. Victoria, we'll start with you. In your opinion, does the security industry have a diversity problem?

I don't think we have a diversity problem. I think we've got a diversity opportunity. I really think that we've got the momentum behind us now to start to carve out a new path. As I mentioned in answering your first question, what's worked has taken us to a point historically in terms of some of the characteristics or the traits that we've had.

But ultimately going forward, the trends are shifting. I think we've got an opportunity to really start to carve out that path internally. Externally, I think it's looking very optimistic and very bright. So I don't think we should look at this from a negative perspective. We are opportunity-rich and I think we've got lots of room where we can continue to improve in this area.

Arin, same question to you. In your perspective, does the security industry have a diversity problem?

I agree with Victoria. I don't know that it's a problem. I mean, define problem. You know, some people think that one thing could be a problem while other people think it's an opportunity. I would rather focus on things that are facts so that there's really no debate needed anymore.

I'm going to throw out other statistics for you. Companies that embrace diversity and inclusion have 101% higher employee engagement. Companies that embrace diversity and inclusion are 36% more profitable. They're 35% more likely to outperform their competitors. And so just as our head of HID said, diversity, inclusion and belonging are now mission-critical. They're not just nice to have. It is incredibly important that we recognize that in order to stay competitive, in order to retain the best talent and to attract the best talent, that this is something that we should be focused on. I'm incredibly proud to say that this is an undertaking that is not going to go away.

We certainly recommend that the other companies follow suit and embrace this as well. I love that Victoria said that it's an opportunity, because I fully agree. We have a chance to change the trajectory of this industry and I’m so proud to say that we are leading the way with that.

And that, my friends, is I think a great way for us to end our very first episode. So big thanks to you, Victoria. Big thanks to you, Arin, for your valuable insights on this very important and ongoing topic.

I'd also like to extend an even bigger thanks to those of you joining us for our premiere episode. I must say we've had a lot of fun putting this together, and I very much hope that you enjoyed listening.

Now, while you're with us, please help me justify the cost of this recording equipment and subscribe to HID Connects. Doing so will ensure that you stay connected and not miss future episodes. And in the spirit of connection, send us your question and topic ideas for future episodes. All you have to do is drop me a line at [email protected].

On that note, be sure to join us next time when we ask the question, “Is sustainability in security just lip service?”

Until next time, thanks for listening. May your identities forever be secure.