Our industry is changing due to a prosperous society and the impact of increasing internal company threats – employee safety, shrinkage, business continuity – and the larger threat of terrorism. In recent years, the security industry has received great coverage in the media, financial world, and with consumers. This visibility carries with it great expectations and presents the security industry as an attractive new market for businesses from outside the industry to enter. These great expectations and new competitive threats manifest our need to recruit and develop the best talent.

The security industry has traditionally had more male than female members – with many members coming from the military, federal agencies, and law enforcement. We also tend to be a more exclusive group, with many businesses having multiple generations of family ownership. This can make for a tough industry for any newcomer to successfully break into. It’s even more difficult for a woman who might not speak the jargon or have a common background.

I’m not as concerned about why there aren’t more women in the industry as much as I’m concerned about why diversity in our industry is important. Diversity often carries a negative connotation; it implies racial or gender quotas and special considerations for minority groups. I use the term diversity to encompass skills, perspective and backgrounds of people – more than gender or racial lines.

If I am not concerned about diversity being about gender, then why have I been pushing for a woman’s professional networking group?

When a business seeks to grow, it has two options: organic growth through existing products and customers or growth by acquisition. Because women come from different backgrounds, we can expect that they will bring with them new ideas and skills that every industry needs to continue healthy growth. Our industry’s growth will be stunted if we rely solely on organic growth and/or further developing the talent already in place. We need to acquire top new talent from outside of the industry. Like any sound growth strategy, we need a balanced plan.

How do companies reach out for diversity? First and foremost is to stop “fishing in the same ponds” for talent. Change your recruitment efforts and make it a goal to include women as an option for new hires. If a hiring manager comes to you with a final slate of “safe,” non-diverse candidates that they have worked with in the past, then ask them to continue looking. Force your managers to go outside of what has long been the industry’s comfort zone. The best candidate may prove to be their original choice, but at least you will have motivated them to make the effort of looking past their own doorstep.

A company’s culture is the largest contributing factor in determining whether women will succeed. Take a hard look at your company’s culture and what tone the leadership sets. Leaders’ formal and informal behaviors shape much of a group’s social morals and values. Companies that have a successful track record recruiting and managing successful women typically have a leader at the helm who values diversity.

The bottom line is that diversity is important when it comes to the great expectations investors and consumers have of this industry. The industry needs to put a greater focus on hiring diverse employees and using that diversity as an advantage. The IT industry is fast on our heels and they operate at a different speed than most of the security industry. Before they catch up, let’s harness that talent and build a stronger security community.

The odds of finding the best talent are a lot better if we cast a wider net. So let’s widen our field of view and bring in the best talent to help us meet our investors’ and customers’ expectations for continued growth and progress. A growing industry brings with it more players, bigger players, and higher expectations for the industry itself. This will require a wider range of skills. The organizations that recognize and respond will meet these great expectations with business success and industry leadership.