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Women in Security: Kerri Sutherland

Women in Security: Kerri Sutherland Diversity and inclusion initiatives are making a difference in security

For Axis Communications' Kerri Sutherland, female role models have played an instrumental role throughout her career.

“I have been blessed with many amazing role models and mentors, who helped me develop throughout my career,” she said, calling out Gail Boudreau, who taught her the “importance of adjusting my communication and work style to my audience as needed. She always had facts and data to back up her opinions and initiatives, which made her highly respected by the managers and leaders at the company, who sought her opinion on a variety of topics.”

She continued, “Michelle Burnett, a CHRO at a computer software company, is another mentor of mine. As an executive surrounded by male counterparts, she was continually calm and composed in the most intense and stressful circumstances, something I strive to be every day.”

Sutherland also pointed to Elaine Palome as a mentor and someone who stoked her passion for Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) initiatives, and helped launch successful trainings and events to support our company's D&I initiatives.

“All three of these powerful women have showed me that working hard, having integrity and building trust are the foundation for success in any industry,” said Sutherland.
Sutherland said she has seen progress when it comes to diversity in leadership roles through various successful initiatives across the industry.

“Unconscious bias training, mentorship programs, and artificial intelligence (AI) are a few examples,” she said. “Bias training can be eye-opening for some employees, and it can aid with buy-in from senior leaders and employees at all levels. Once training is completed, it is much easier to hold employees accountable. I have also seen many mentorship programs, formal and informal, that can have a huge impact on female's careers and growth opportunities.”

Sutherland is excited about the potential of artificial intelligence, even with diversity and inclusion.

“Although you need to be careful with biases from the algorithms developed in AI software, it can make biases obsolete,” she explained. “There are many AI tools to help with job descriptions, like gender decoder that can ensure your job description language is gender neutral and not catering to just males, or just females. AI can also help in something as easy as removing (or white-washing) a name from a resume. We are just hitting the tip of the iceberg with Diversity and Inclusion (D&I), and we need to continuously work on our biases and holding leaders accountable. On another note, I see many organizations talking about diversity and not about inclusion — both are equally important if you want your diverse candidates and employees to stay engaged long-term.”

And while her journey has had its ups and downs in this male-dominated industry, she has seen several changes. “Initially, I saw males in leadership roles as the norm,” she explained. “But that began to change when I started looking at the data and successes of diverse teams. There are times where I celebrate successes with leaders, like hiring a new female Team Lead on a technical team. There are other times where biases are exposed, and I am asked to take notes in a meeting (being the only female in the room).”

She continued, “Overall, change is happening, and I overhear more leaders discussing the importance of emotional intelligence and not about females being 'too emotional.' I am also seeing more females applying for technical and leadership roles, regardless of the travel requirement. There are also many conferences now catering to women in the security industry, and the list goes on. Again, the change is slow and will take time to reach equality. Overall, I see the industry moving in the right direction.”

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