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The Privacy Advisor | Session To Help Women Connect, Network and Mobilize Related reading: Cavoukian Named Among Canada's Top Influential Women

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For entrepreneur Nico Sell, success started with math. She thought herself a math geek when she was younger, a perhaps sometimes-derogatory designation, but one that’s turned out to be an advantage. As she progressed in school, she gravitated toward social sciences. And it’s the tools she picked up then that she now credits with propelling her to success in the security, and now privacy, industry.

Sell, now the CEO of Wickr, a messaging service that allows users to send and receive private messages, pictures, files and documents without chance of being tracked or monitored, has experienced the kind of success to which other women in the privacy field might aspire. And Sell sees plenty of opportunities for those aspirations to be fulfilled. That’s part of the message she’ll impart at an upcoming get together at the IAPP Privacy Academy in San Jose this week: "Women in Privacy and Security." Sell will be joined on Friday, September 19, by industry leaders for a panel discussion including Michelle Dennedy, CIPM, CIPP/US, Chief Privacy Officer at McAfee; Evelyn DeSouza, data privacy and compliance leader at Cisco, and Barb Lawler, CIPP/US, chief privacy officer at Intuit. The session will be moderated by Bank of America CPO Christine Frye, CIPP/US, and then the floor will open for discussion, brainstorming and general networking.

Sell’s success in privacy started in the security industry, founding Montara Mountain in 1999—a venture catalyst firm focused on building new security initiatives. In 2010, she co-founded r00tz Asylum, dedicated to teaching kids around the world how to love being white-hat hackers.

Coming from a security background and moving into privacy, Sell says that while she certainly sees the two industries merging, privacy certainly hosts more women than she saw in the security sphere. And with good reason.

“I think it’s a great industry for women,” she said. “I think because it involves both caring about people a lot, as well as legal and marketing and engineering. So you’ve got to be a multi-tasker, and you’ve got to understand people really well.”

I think more than in most industries, you’re judged by what you can produce and your integrity. We have very clear ways to define if you’re good at privacy or not, so I think that’s a great opportunity for women. You can be judged on your merit and your integrity.

Nico Sell, CEO at Wickr

Expect a solid crowd, in the tradition of a similar session held at the IAPP Privacy Summit in March, where more than 100 women showed up to talk about the issues they face and how to overcome them. And it’s certainly not a man-bashing session.

A lot of the questions that arose at the Summit session sounded like, “what do you do about women who don’t support other women?” for example.

Sell said she’s optimistic both about the session and the future of women in privacy.

“I think more than in most industries, you’re judged by what you can produce and your integrity,” she said. “We have very clear ways to define if you’re good at privacy or not, so I think that’s a great opportunity for women. You can be judged on your merit and your integrity.”

And in her mind, that’s good news.

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