Women in Business Continuity Management

In 1869, Arabella Mansfield becomes the first female lawyer; Victoria Claflin Woodhull grabs the first female presidential candidate nomination in 1872, and female federal employees win equal pay for equal work; 1887 sees Susanna Medora Salter as the first woman elected mayor of an American town; The House of Representatives, in 1916, elects Jeannette Rankin as its first female; In 1932, Hattie Wyatt Caraway becomes the first woman to sit on the U.S. senate; In 1953, NASA grants its first female, Jerrie Cobb, commencement of astronaut testing…This venerable list has continued to broaden and blossom as pioneering women challenged restrictive norms and proved their worth in male-monopolized terrains. Through the decades women have shattered societal shackles to progress from being denied property ownership to owning and operating billion-dollar businesses. Today, women hold positions of authority and stand shoulder-to-shoulder with their male colleagues. Yet, through all this progress there still exists industries awash in Y chromosomes.

Generally Speaking
In truth and generalization, some industries dominated by either sex are a matter of preference innate within our biology – many women do gravitate towards positions allied to care-taking or social services, whereas males are often drawn to technology and physical labor. Although, both men and women are branching out and crossing over acutely gender-dominated fields. And there are professions in which women are still striving to break barriers of male governance. Business continuity management (BCM) may be one such industry.

Survey Says
Recently, the DRI International Foundation’s Women in Business Continuity Management Committee conducted a survey to gain insight on women’s roles, perspectives, and needs within the BCM industry. Overall, the findings revealed that women are generally content with the industry as a whole. Of the 910 women surveyed, 70 percent indicated they felt positive overall. However, 20 percent proclaimed they were not satisfied with female representation in the industry, and 40 percent suggested female leadership visibility is poor. One survey subject noted that she felt many women in the industry are “regulated to housekeeping” as opposed to occupying leadership and strategic roles. Though she speculated whether that was due to desire or designation. Supporting that designation may be the culprit, the survey unveiled a collective perception that women fill fewer senior-level roles than low to mid-level positions.

Castellan Software’s Community Manager also added that lack of interest may be a reason for low female visibility in some sectors of BCM, such as DRI. But she noted that in others such as risk management, women are often not seen as true competitors, crisis communication being the most apparent.

More Mentors
A perceivable lack of female leadership invariably creates an inadequacy of women mentors. Of course, mentors do not have to be of the same sex. But in a mostly male arena, being mentored by one who has faced similar struggles for similar reasons can be grounding and empowering.

The survey clearly exposed mentorship as an area needing growth: 45 percent of respondents indicated scarcity of female mentors as the tallest hurdle in entering the field. Nearly half the respondents – 45 percent – said they have never had a mentor, 53 percent stated they have never been a mentor. Additionally, 24 percent of those who did have a mentor report that it was a male, 13 percent reported it was a woman. Only 13 percent have ever mentored another woman, and a slim 5 percent have mentored a man.

Proof in Papers
The survey also highlighted that more women appear to possess multiple certifications compared to their male peers. This could be an indication that they feel the need to validate or prove their worth. But it also bears very solid professional benefits. Companies often seek and hire certified professionals over those who are not. A certification can be the deciding factor in getting the position. Certifications also satisfy outside auditors, government regulators, and clients seeking authentication.

Change is prevailing. Several respondents expressed that they have noticed upward movement for women in the past five or so years. In the survey, 80 percent of subjects indicated that they held at least one certification. That, along with the fact that women hold nearly 40 percent of Master Business Continuity Professional (MBCP) certifications, looks like a reliable barometer of continued female advancement and representation in the field.

Though there are still BCM mountains to climb, they may just be getting smaller. Women in BCM must not lose heart. They are making change, they are evolving the industry. They need to continue to tap every available resource and devise new ones for each other. And not only should they network with other female industry professionals, they should involve male peers. Men must be included in the conversations, especially since many male professionals may not be aware of the imbalances or concerns. Women cannot be afraid to speak out and bring incongruencies into the light. And they should not be hesitant to accept full credit for all they accomplish. Celebrate it, promote it.

Women have come a long way through history, they’ve made history. Yet, more work is still to be done in professions such as BCM. But sound, permeating change is never a quick fix.

“I do not know anyone who has got to the top without hard work.”
~ Margaret Thatcher

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