Since 2022, The Security Foundation (TSF), formerly the International Security Foundation (ISF), has set organizational and industry goals for diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) efforts. In an industry where 94% of job candidates are men and 70% come from a government background, TSF works to constantly improve its own initiatives and foster cross-organizational collaboration on DEI initiatives in the security industry.

“If improving the diversity of the security profession was easy, it would have been accomplished by now. There are many contributing factors that have led to the overall lack of diversity the profession faces today but, the good news is that positive change can be made,” says Dave Komendat, TSF President and seasoned enterprise security leader.

That positive change is one of The Security Foundation’s priorities with their internal and external DEI efforts. Since 2011, TSF has supported the security industry through impactful grant allocation and leading events, including the annual TSF Dinner, which is held during the Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) Annual Briefing.

As part of TSF’s Strategic Plan, the foundation has accomplished a number of DEI-related goals to support diversity at TSF and in the security industry at large, featuring diverse keynote speakers at the TSF Dinner; sponsoring the OSAC Women in Security and Global Security Pride groups; funding two students’ attendance at the TSF Dinner; and hiring Director of Programs Carly Coaty, who directly manages the organization’s DEI efforts.

“With all of those accomplishments, we’re now focusing on next steps,” Coaty explains. “Today, we’re aiming to create organizational alignment to remove DEI barriers and directly influence industry culture at all levels. We’re also working to develop a talent diverse pipeline and security recruitment initiatives.”

We believe that working together with other peer organizations (and to grow [the DEI Summit Group] annually) is the best way to start to affect meaningful change in the security industry.”
— Peggy O’Neill, TSF Executive Director

In April 2023, TSF hosted the inaugural meeting of Joint DEI Task Force, which was made up of delegates from ASIS, the Domestic Security Alliance Council (DSAC), OSAC, the International Security Management Association (ISMA), and The Security Foundation. In fall 2023, the Joint DEI Task Force expanded to include more delegates and evolved to the DEI Summit Group. The DEI Summit Group worked to identify target audiences for the security industry’s diversity efforts, which they identified as college students and entry-level security professionals. TSF will host the second annual DEI Summit this May in Washington, D.C., where the DEI Summit Group will continue to expand on their DEI strategy.

“Through the leadership of The Security Foundation bringing together other major security entities like OSAC, DSAC, ISMA and ASIS — each of whom were already working on strategies to enhance diversity within their own organizations — we have an opportunity to make some really significant progress,” adds Komendat.

“[We’re] learning from the work that been done by each organization, sharing best practices, [and] developing a common diversity strategy and roadmap that each organization currently involved with TSF (and others who want to engage) can implement (at the pace that is realistic for them),” Komendat says.

TSF’s updated 2023-2025 Strategic Plan outlines further steps the foundation is taking to increase diverse representation in the security profession. Building on TSF’s previous accomplishments in DEI, the organization will continue to prioritize diverse speakers at the annual TSF Dinner and institute regular DEI training for TSF’s board. Externally, TSF is putting DEI requirements for grant recipients in place in 2024, which has already manifested in the awarding of a TSF grant to Girl Security, a nonprofit dedicated to involving women and girls in national security positions. Additionally, TSF will continue its industry collaboration involving DEI through the DEI Summit Group.

“The overarching DEI goal of TSF’s current strategic plan is to ‘promote diversity, equity and inclusion within the security profession through intentional grantmaking and education,’” says Peggy O’Neill, TSF Executive Director. “We set internal and external goals, including committing to annual Board and staff DEI training and achieving 50% Board diversity by 2025, which we proudly achieved a year early… We believe that working together with other peer organizations (and to grow [the DEI Summit Group] annually) is the best way to start to affect meaningful change in the security industry.”

The unique industry position of TSF allows the foundation to connect industry organizations and work towards a meaningful DEI partnership. TSF has achieved a number of its DEI goals already, but the team continues to focus on the work ahead.

“We’re very proud and passionate about what we've done, and all the work that is still to be done. Our DEI goals energize us,” Coaty says.