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The Privacy Advisor | Women Leading Privacy on taking a stand and serving as an example Related reading: Privacy tech platform Osano raises $11M, and other news




One of the privacy industry's selling points is its well-documented equal gender representation. In fact, the majority of chief privacy officers are women, according to the 2015 IAPP Salary survey. Women Leading Privacy is now, in fact, an entire subgroup of IAPP membership, and there now exists an active, 14-member IAPP WLP Advisory Board from backgrounds spanning industries and companies around the globe. 

That's why we want to make sure there's plenty of opportunities for women in the field to connect, network and learn at this year's Global Privacy Summit in Washington, D.C. On Wednesday, April 19, the "Women Leading Privacy" session will feature female leaders in privacy for a discussion of how to build on and continue your professional success. 

It'll look similar to a session held at the IAPP’s Privacy. Security. Risk. conference in San Jose, California, last fall where Jenn Behrens, CIPM, CIPP/G, CIPP/US, FIP, Amanda Bell Smith, CIPP/E, Juanita Koilpillai and Chenxi Wang spoke to both celebrate the unique level of representation in the privacy field and exhort women professionals to continue to push boundaries, persevere, create and excel.

Here are some sound bites from the aforementioned P.S.R. session to get an idea of what kind of advice you might find at this year's Summit panel. 

Jenn Behrens: On taking a stand

“I try to bring a certain zeal that companies may not want to fully embrace,” said  Behrens, of Kimble & Associates. “My role is to help the CEO or president of the company negotiate the risk with those business drivers and needs. My job is to help them prepare, but at the end of the day, I’m not in charge of the business.”

Jenn Behrens, FIP, CIPM, CIPP/G, CIPP/US

Jenn Behrens, FIP, CIPM, CIPP/G, CIPP/US

To that end, “I need to understand what my role is, but I need to realize that I might be approaching things differently.” 

Then there are times when you have to push against the tide, she said.

“I had my PhD chair tell me once, ‘Jennifer, take a stand,’” she said. “And it’s still scary, and I have to picture that in my head sometimes when I’m giving a report or raising my hand, and that it’s okay to take a stand. That it's a worthwhile risk to take in my career.”

While there are sometimes consequences for voicing an opinion, it shouldn't keep one from voicing it. Behrens said, after speaking up, sometimes “I’m asked to come to the next meeting. Sometimes I’m not, sometimes it backfires — that’s something I see women struggle with."

And if someone tells you, “no”? It can be a blessing. “Everyone needs someone who will tell you no, and you have to value that personTwitter bird logo blue 32x32,” she said. “You need someone who will keep you from being reckless, and it can keep you humble and make sure you check yourself before you wreck yourself.” 

 Juanita Koilpillai: On fighting for an unpopular opinion

“I started in cybersecurity 30 years ago. I spent a lot of time building aeronautic systems for flying over the ocean,” Koilpillai said. “It was all about encryption. I built a platform that Symantec bought, then went home to raise my kids thinking I’d solved this problem with security. But then it’s ‘hacking this' and 'hacking that,’ and I’m thinking, ‘what happened to the cybersecurity field?’”

“More recently, we’ve developed digital risk management. I’m president of the Digital Risk Management Institute, [where we’ve] done of lot of research. How [do we] marry a legal framework with technology?”

Juanita Koilpillai

Juanita Koilpillai

She argued that the foundation of that relationship is not as complicated as it may seem. “At the bottom of it is trust. How many get insurance letters that [their] data has been breached? When consumers do, they often react with confusion, and there are consequences for the offending company. “You lose this trust,” she said. “And businesses care about that a lot.”

One thing leads to another and then, “when consumers lose confidence is when the economy goes downhill.”

However, there are those in business, like Koilpillai, who believe going to battle in favor of the consumer, however unpopular, is worth it. “We’re not afraid of talking, we’re not afraid of losing our jobs,” she said. “I don’t know why. Let me know, and I’ll go find another job, and then you can find someone else to do my job. I’m going to speak my mind, and I think women are that way Twitter bird logo blue 32x32."

Quick take: Koilpillai walks through educating peers 

Chenxi Wang: On serving as an example

“I did this same panel at DEF CON [a hacking conference] and it was very poorly attended,” said Wang, chief security officer at Twistlock. “One of the things I want to explore is why this room is so well attended here in privacy.”

Chenxi Wang

Chenxi Wang

As the security and privacy industries continually have opportunities to work in tandem, organizational leaders are “seeing an organizational shift with companies bringing security and privacy together,” she said. “In the popular media, you run into this Apple vs. FBI [case]  … and many of these issues start to blur. Coming from security, I would say many folks in the security field don’t understand privacy.”

She gave an example of what she views as the security industry’s misunderstanding of privacy. “It’s not about not having data, it’s about how you use itTwitter bird logo blue 32x32,” she said. Sometimes, security professionals think, “’Hey, I don’t want you to have this field data, oh, I’ll just encrypt it and we’re done.’”


“As the two fields start to come together in a more integrated fashion, that conception has to be broken,” she emphasized. “You guys have to guide security and help us understand how to build a system that is privacy-respectful.”

Quick take: Wang discusses inspiration and self-awareness 

Amanda Bell Smith: On truly understanding your business 

“I’m the workforce privacy officer at Fidelity Investments,” Bell Smith said. “Even though we don’t have a lot of international customers, we have a lot of global workforce.”

We’re “all over the world — Australia, Hong Kong. How do we comply with the law?”

Global perspectives aside, there’s the “immediate picture” perspective to digest. “I think that in a corporate setting it is really important … to understand your business and the processes and the data flows,” she said.

Amanda Bell Smith, CIPP/E

Amanda Bell Smith, CIPP/E

You have to focus in even more, and take personal ownership of your data.  “There’s really a big shift into the use of data and the ethical use of data — that’s my role: the acceptable use of data. Do you have any idea how much information your company has about you? Twitter bird logo blue 32x32 When you do a subject access request in the U.K., you’d be surprised how much information your organization has around you.”

As an employer, “there are great reasons for collecting data, but we have to protect the privacy of your employees.”

Additionally, she encouraged finding a mentor. “Find a woman in your company who’s successful — what do they do, why are they successful, and see what makes them successful and then do that.”

Quick take: In the video below, Bell talks knowing your stuff

Want to hear more from your female peers? Check out the IAPP’s Women Leading Privacy page, the association’s hub for tailored news relating to this space.

For male privacy pros: We want to engage with you, also. Check out an op-ed from IAPP Content Director Sam Pfeifle as he breaks down the importance of men and showing up to Women Leading Privacy events, as well.

Content Director Sam Pfeifle contributed to this report.

Join the IAPP Women Leading Privacy Section

While there are as many women in privacy as there are men, the truth is that women experience unique industry hurdles and challenges. The IAPP’s Women Leading Privacy Section is where many of today’s top privacy professionals come to give and get career support, to help advance women in the field and to expand their personal and professional networks with a slew of opportunities created just for them.
 More information

1 Comment

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  • comment Judy Kosaka • Feb 1, 2017
    Bravo woman!!!  Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I found a golden nugget in each.