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Privacy Perspectives | On Gender Equality and the Privacy Profession Related reading: Wickr CEO Talks Women in Privacy, Limiting Digital Footprints

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It’s terrific there’s no gap in pay between the salaries of male and female privacy professionals. I am not surprised, but thrilled there is proof of what I have long felt to be true.

As one of the early pioneers of the privacy profession, I proudly offer some reasons why we have managed to get it right. Now that I am on the sidelines, I hope the trend continues.

Not one gender more than the other, but equal, as it should be.

Shortly after the turn of the century,I was asked to take on the Global Privacy Executive role at Procter & Gamble. By that time, I already had many years of leadership experience under my belt. With a specialty in business transformation—i.e. internal consulting—I worked with many departments to solve issues, develop strategies and lead global organizations, often with a technology component. This skillset brought me into the world of compliance within our Global Competitive Intelligence and Records Retention programs.

So what was one more?

Plus, this consumer privacy protection “niche” in an environment of “New Media” was only supposed to take 15 percent of a full-time equivalent!

As I started to learn more about the field, though, I found there were only a few hundred privacy professionals—compare that to the tens of thousands working today! Like me, many in the profession—both men and women—were typically more seasoned and already proven leaders in their organizations. We supported each other as we supported our companies to build our programs and best practices for the industry. We didn't have the baggage as other professions that grew up in the days when there were roles for men and roles for women. We didn't have to experience the competition, aggravation and glass ceilings within the privacy profession itself, but of course, we still had to fight those battles within our own organizations because of our gender.

Add to that the challenge of elevating privacy as a top priority within our companies, and you’ll know that our jobs were not easy! In a nutshell, privacy as a new profession was built by male AND female leaders working side by side.

Salaries have also been historically equal in the privacy profession because seasoned female leaders—who helped to establish the profession at the turn of the century—already had experience dealing with some of the "5 Ways Women Can Close the Pay Gap."

  • Negotiate smarter,
  • negotiate from the outset,
  • push for promotions early on,
  • work in a fairer field,
  • and, toot your own horn.

We were not “new starters” so this advice was also not new to us.

In my afterlife from Procter & Gamble, I am now "reWired" as a Business Strategy and Leadership Coach with a specialty in Risk Management and Information Governance. Communication of all types is probably the one area that I spend most time today with my clients. For young women especially—but not only—"tooting your own horn" takes a lot of encouragement, followed by "negotiating smarter.” Many of us who helped to birth the privacy profession had learned this from the school of hard knocks. We coach and mentor others to learn from our experiences.

Finally, the fact that much of what we do in privacy today is technology-based means that we are smarter about how to use it. Both men and women are able to practice more balanced work and family life due to increased flexibility and knowing how to make good choices.

So here is a caveat: My fear is that the new salary equality between men and women in privacy will backfire and that the field will be viewed as a “women-only profession.”

Fifty years ago, my parents were advocating for me to be a nurse or a stewardess, typical jobs for a "girl." I rebelled and chose computer science and systems analysis. Boys would rarely go into nursing but thank goodness that has changed over the years.

I hope that men do not view this news as a profession to avoid because they don't want to be labeled a “girl” with all the old stereotypes that go with it. I will not list those here but you know what they are. I’m talking about myths that women have been trying to bust for the longest time. This study proves they are successful at busting them.

Much like the highly acclaimed Procter & Gamble marketing campaign, "Play like a girl,” I hope that little boys and little girls will both fight for the opportunity to equally be professionals and be proud of it. Let's use our profession as a model for others to emulate and aspire.

And, let's keep doing it together.

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