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Privacy & Data

Privacy: An Equal Playing Field for Women and Men


You can’t open the paper these days without being bombarded with the latest dire statistics about the dearth of women and minorities in the tech pipeline. The steady stream of negative stories became a flood earlier this week when Sir Tim Hunt, a biochemist and Nobel Laureate, publicly commented that research laboratories should be segregated because women lead to romantic distractions, and cry too easily. (If you haven’t been on Twitter this week, it’s worth checking the response from scientists who have been tweeting under the hashtag #distractinglysexy.)

The evidence is clear that bringing together teams with different skills and diverse backgrounds leads to better work product. This isn’t simply the latest feel-good fad: some studies have found that business performance improves by as much as 80 percent when levels of diversity and inclusion are high.

Despite Sir Hunt’s comments, which highlight the significant work still ahead in the field, there are some glimmers of hope that should be celebrated. On Tuesday, CDT partnered with the International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP) to announce that women working in privacy in the United States and Europe have achieved pay equity with men. The IAPP’s 2015 Privacy Professional Salary Survey found that women working in privacy and data governance follow similar career trajectories as men, with professional certification being the most predictive indicator for salary. Moreover, the survey found that women are 33 percent more likely to occupy a C-suite office than men, and that women and men were very nearly on equal footing at the vice president, legal counsel, and director-level positions.

CDT and IAPP brought together an outstanding group of women privacy leaders to discuss the survey results and their lessons for the broader technology industry. Panelists included Patrice Ettinger, Chief Privacy Officer for Pfizer; Christine Frye, Senior Vice President and Chief Privacy Officer for Bank of America; Hilary Wandall, Associate Vice President, Compliance & Global Privacy Officer for Merck & Co.; and Erika Brown Lee, Chief Privacy and Civil Liberties Officer for the United States Department of Justice.

Nuala O’Connor moderated a wide-ranging discussion about the reasons women have made such great strides in privacy, and what the lessons are for the next generation moving up through the pipeline. Panelists noted that the gains in the privacy field might be partially attributable to the relatively recent creation of the privacy industry, which allowed women to be involved in shaping the field from its inception. This lack of pre-existing structure allowed women to be creative in seeing needs and crafting roles and solutions. There was also wide agreement by the panel that the women who have risen to leadership positions have been willing to take risks and step into undefined areas when opportunities open.

Though there is much work to be done to increase diversity across the STEM community, I hope you will join CDT in briefly pausing to celebrate women in the privacy field for leading the way.

Photo gallery from privacy panel event

Tweets from the event: