WSC Honors Women Leaders

April 11, 2013
Organization presents 2nd annual WOY awards

The Women’s Security Council, a not-for-profit organization, presented its second annual Women of the Year Awards Tuesday evening at Pinot Brasserie in the Venetian Hotel in conjunction with ISC West 2013. The winners were selected from a variety of security industry ranks for their contributions to furthering women in the security industry and mentoring individuals to success.

Awards were presented by Rhianna Daniels, managing director of Compass Public Relations, a founding committee member of the organization. Submissions were provided from the industry at large and an independent panel reviewed the entries and selected awards for end users, manufacturers, systems integrators and media categories. “Our goal is to empower women to realize professional success as industry leaders and these winners are to be congratulated for their efforts,” Daniels said.

Winners share their thoughts

In the systems integrator category, two awards were presented, one to Mary Jo Cornell, president and CEO of Linstar Inc. in Buffalo, N.Y., and the other to Pam Petrow, president and CEO of Vector Security in Warrendale, Pa.

“It’s always a special honor to be recognized by one’s peers, and I am humbled to be included in the company of the security industry’s female superstars,” said Mary Jo Cornell. “I have enjoyed 25 years in the security industry, in several capacities and have found it to be personally gratifying and professionally rewarding,” she said. Cornell said that the industry has come a long way since her initial introduction to it—especially in recent years. 

“When I first started attending ISC and ASIS, there were far fewer women.  Exhibitors used to look past me as if they were trying to figure out where the men I must be tagging along with were—so they could address them instead.  Today, many of the most knowledgeable and resourceful vendor partners I work with are women and we are calling on more female decision makers in the security world than ever before.”

Pam Petrow of Vector Security handed praise to WSC for promoting the professional success of women in the security industry. “The security space offers tremendous opportunity for smart, confident and talented women.  It is an exciting place to be with the changes in technology offering new opportunities as well as new challenges.  We need more individuals who are willing to embrace these changes as we reshape the industry and continue to make sure we are relevant to both residential and commercial consumers. This transition is a perfect time for women to seek out and become engaged with companies that are looking for new talent that can bring fresh perspective and creative solutions to a traditional and sometimes old-school industry,” she said. 

Donna Kobzaruk, vice president of Global Security and Investigations for JPMorgan Chase & Co. in Chicago commented that it is critical for any industry, particularly one that deals with safety and security, to embrace diversity of thought that women provide. “Otherwise, there’s a significant missed opportunity for growth, or even failure, when industries continue operating in a myopic world.”

Kobzaruk mentors others in the industry and believes this is a critical component to success. “Each of us should take another female under our wings and groom her to be a success. Initiatives such as mentoring programs, or membership to organizations such as the Women's Security Council, make significant impact to the women in the security industry. I'm lucky to be part of all!”

In the manufacturer category, Bodil Sonesson, vice president of Global Sales for Axis Communications, based in Chelmsford, Mass., echoed the sentiments of Kobzaruk with regards to diversity in the security industry.

“All research today shows that having gender diversity in management teams and within executive boards brings better results for companies and there is now more open discussion about this topic than ever before. Still I think that we have a long way to go.” She added that at Axis, openness is an inherent part of the company’s culture, which has assisted her in her career aspirations.

“In our regional executive management team we are some 40 percent women, a high number compared to the industry in general. I believe that in order to be able to increase the number of females in leadership positions in the security industry it is very important to be open and discuss the topic. WSC further enables possibilities for that discussion.”

Also a WSC winner in the manufacturer category, Karen Evans, president and CEO of Sielox, Runnemede, N.J., commented that she was honored for the recognition when there are so many talented women in the security industry today.

“When I started in the industry in the early 80s, I was frequently the only female in attendance at seminars or training classes.  I was a minority but I never let gender be an influence or an obstacle with anything I attempted.  I have worked for distributors, integrators and the last 22 years on the manufacturing side of the industry.  I found that the more technical knowledge I acquired over time, the more respect I earned from peers, employees, dealers and end-users alike.  If there is one thing I would suggest to anyone entering the industry or looking to advance, become a sponge for knowledge and sharing that knowledge with others to gain credibility,” Evans said. 

Other WOY winners included Martha Entwistle, editor in chief of Security Systems News and a media partner who has helped promote the WSC organization and also the role of women in the industry through regular industry articles, as well as Renae Leary, senior director of Global Accounts, Tyco International, who was recognized with Volunteer of the Year. Leary assisted WSC in getting the organization off the ground and has worked tirelessly to promote its efforts. 

WSC sponsors include: ISC West, Tyco Integrated Security, MG Designs, Mobotix, Compass Public Relations, Monitronics, Next Level Security Systems, Siemens, SIA and Security Dealer & Integrator magazine.