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Last year, we published some data here at the IAPP showing that the privacy profession is, in large part, gender balanced. There are roughly the same amount of women as men working in privacy, they’re at roughly the same levels in their organizations, and, in the United States at least, they’re within about 5 percent of each other in mean pay (yeah, the guys are higher).

You gotta squint just a bit, but that looks like equality.

So, let’s take that for granted, ignoring the big pay gap for women in Canada, for example, and the preponderance of men in privacy in Europe (65/35).

Let’s just say we’ve got something that looks like gender equality in privacy here in the United States.

A lot of people are just saying that, it seems, because I’ve been asked on a number of occasions why, then, we need a Women Leading Privacy group here at the IAPP.

To which I say: Dudes! C’mon.

Perhaps you should show up to one of the Women Leading Privacy events and listen to what these women have to say. I go to every one of them at our events, and I’m usually one of the only guys there, alongside Trevor Hughes, our CEO, and maybe some other board members. This past week at P.S.R., there was one other dude.

In a room holding more than 100 people. So, about 100 women, two guys.

Well, obviously, Women Leading Privacy is for women, right? Why would a guy want to go?

Seems to me there are dozens of reasons: Wouldn’t hearing the issues women are facing in the workplace help you address them in your own workplace? Aren’t you interested in finding and cultivating top female talent? Don’t you think it would be useful to hear what women find to be the unique challenges of working in the privacy space? Don’t you want to baseline your organization’s gender-equality policies with those of other companies?

Apparently not.

That’s why we need Women Leading Privacy.

In fact, when I sat down at my table at the event, with my Fruit Loops and strawberry yogurt, one of the women asked me what I was doing there.

I’m a feminist. Have been for a long time. These issues are important. Society runs better when everyone produces and contributes to the full extent of their abilities.

Jokingly, I held up my staff badge and let her know that it was my job. But I quickly made sure to let her know that I would have been there regardless. I’m a feminist. Have been for a long time. These issues are important. Society runs better when everyone produces and contributes to the full extent of their abilities. Systemic barriers to women succeeding, ergo, are bad for business and bad for society. And, you know, it’s the only moral and ethical stance that’s defensible.

Then she asked me if I have a daughter.

And, well, yes, I do. But that’s not why I’m a feminist.

I’m a feminist because I’ve been in the workplace for about 20 years now. I’ve seen the way many schools are staffed by women but headed by men. I’ve seen the way directors of sales are men and directors of marketing are women, and the sales pays way better. I’ve seen booth babes beyond booth babes beyond booth babes. I’ve seen women struggle to get a word in edgewise and apologize when they dare to interrupt.

And don’t get me started on what I saw in prep school and college.

I’ve been a feminist since the day I heard the term, and I know we need Women Leading Privacy, even in a “balanced” profession, because I know we’ve got a long way to go yet. A long way to go.

I’m proud the IAPP has recognized that and is happy to foster the conversation about how we get there. I’ll work hard to make sure we continue to promote the privacy profession as a place with opportunity for women. And I’ll continue to get on my soapbox every time someone asks me why we need Women Leading Privacy.

Because women say we do, and that’s good enough for me.


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  • comment Patrick Brannon • Sep 21, 2016
    As the "one other dude" in the room for the session, I was there to listen and learn. I value the perspectives shared, and I took away some valuable insights I'm not sure I would have gotten had I not been there.
  • comment John Berard • Sep 21, 2016
    Because they do and differently from men in ways that better match the need to strike a balance among competing and constantly changing requirements.  We have much to learn (and un-learn)
  • comment Norman Wilson • Sep 21, 2016
    Lets focus getting the best qualified leaders.
  • comment Debbie Morey • Sep 21, 2016
    Thank you to Sam, and the other dudes, for this.
  • comment Courtney Gabrielson • Sep 21, 2016
    Exactly, Norman Wilson. That's what consciously making more room at the table for all different stripes of people and dialoguing with them, like Sam encourages, does.
  • comment Annie Bai • Sep 21, 2016
    Kudos for the heart-felt comments, Sam.  I guarantee you, the matters that are discussed in these rooms result in gains for all manner of people.  Having a good starting point is just that - a foundation to keep improving.
  • comment Dianne Hendrickson • Sep 22, 2016
    Including diverse views will only help to improve the privacy competency or any other field of work.  Having women in Privacy just makes sense.
  • comment Fran Sachs • Sep 22, 2016
    Thanks, Sam, for your comments.  Much appreciated and wish I heard them more often, and in other industries where parity isn't even close
  • comment Caitlin Pencarrick Hertzman • Sep 22, 2016
    Yes. IAPP's approach to this has only improved over the years and I for one really appreciate it. Next step  - more women on panels and as speakers at your conferences - which is also improving.
    If one has to fall back to the old "just choose the best qualified" argument, one needs to go back and do their homework on privilege and systematic oppression. I may not have experienced outright sexism in the workplace (in fact I have, many times) but that does not mean the system, industry, university, corporation etc. doesn't have policies that make success easier for men than women - and that's what holds back women from either being or being seen as that qualified candidate you're looking for.