Diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I or DEI) is an important business initiative of recent years. But a 2021 report by the Society for Human Resource Management, which surveyed 804 human resource professionals, suggests the acronym might more appropriately spell “die.” That’s because “[r]oughly 80% of companies are just going through the motions and not holding themselves accountable” for diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives. Moreover, “Organizations tend to resort to legacy tactics of bias training, diversity recruiting, and programs that sometimes backfire and contribute to more division than unity,” the report found.
As in other fields, DE&I efforts in security have been spotty. Specialty organizations have arisen over the last few decades to support groups that have been traditionally underrepresented in our profession. Various Women in Security initiatives (via ASIS International, the Security Industry Association, the International Organization of Black Security Executives (IOBSE)) are helping to level the playing field, but true DE&I goes only as far as the efforts of individual employers.
In an article published by Security in January 2021, Editor-in-Chief Maggie Shein wrote that security departments should set diversity targets and use metrics to gauge success. While that would work for, say, women, African Americans, seniors, and other ethnicities and nationalities, how do you measure efforts to recruit diversity in thought, sexual preference and disability — features that are often invisible to the eye?
A recent webinar by The OSPAs called “Diversity: What About the Disabled and LGBT Community?” explored aspects of DE&I that have received little attention. The three panelists, one of whom identified as openly gay, discussed efforts to be accepted in a profession where the stereotypical macho image of a security practitioner, though diminishing, persists. The panelists also addressed the dearth of data on whether the disabled and LBGT communities are actually underrepresented in the security profession.
So, it’s welcome news that the ASIS Foundation announced that it is funding original research on DE&I in security. The Foundation’s goal is to publish, “an evidence-based strategy report on the state of the issue and how the security profession and its organizations engage underrepresented groups in security.” The report is expected to include background on DE&I, identify best practices, analyze existing research in the security profession and beyond, consider DE&I in various countries across continents, showcase stories of underrepresented groups, identify barriers and opportunities, and provide actionable recommendations.
In the meantime, DE&I advocates should think globally, but act locally. In other words, consider practicing DIY DE&I — diversity, equity and inclusion, one initiative, one staff member, one position, one employer at a time.
Consider Ron Martin. The Shreveport, Louisiana-based security consultant, pays for dozens of students from diverse backgrounds to join ASIS International every year. He also plays an integral part in an IOBSE program that pays for promising students to attend that organization’s annual conference and meet security executives from companies such as Microsoft, Ross Stores, Fannie Mae, Gap and Google.
We can’t all be like Ron, but as he puts it, bringing just a single person from an underrepresented group into the security field serves the greater good. Even if you have no hiring authority, you might consider covering association membership fees for students — which generally cost a fraction of a professional membership — especially for students in locations where even the reduced cost of student memberships is out of reach.
Let’s not let DE&I die. Practice DIY DE&I.