According to the UN, women make around 77 cents for every dollar earned by men. The disparity is generally wider in developing countries and narrower in Europe and the US.

Leading women

The International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP) conducts regular surveys of salaries among privacy professionals. 

There’s a gender wage gap in privacy, too—male privacy professionals make 9% on average than their female colleagues worldwide. And in the US, the gap is much larger, with male privacy professionals out-earning women by 14%.

However, privacy professionals are often positive about the representation of women in their industry, and women fill many senior privacy roles.

For International Women’s Day 2022, GRC World Forums spoke to four senior women working in privacy about their experiences building careers in the sector.

Is the Data Protection Sector Leading the Way?

Christina Montgomery, Chief Privacy Officer at IBM, believes that, in many ways, the privacy field is ahead of other sectors in terms of gender disparities.

“I’m the fourth Chief Privacy Officer (at IBM) in 22 years,” Montgomery said via email, “and we’ve all been women.”

Montgomery said women were well-represented in other roles at IBM, too.

“I co-chair IBM’s AI Ethics Board, and my co-chair is a woman who also happens to be our AI Global Ethics Leader,” she said.

But Montgomery feels that, without the support of her employer, it would have been much harder for her to progress in her field.

“Like it or not, women are still the primary caregivers, the CEOs at home, etc.,” she said. “If it weren’t for the support of IBM and the understanding managers I’ve had over the years, I would not have been able to balance raising my children with having a rich and rewarding career.”

Individuals As Change-Makers

Karie Burt, Chief Data and Privacy Officer at marketing company MeritB2B, said that “change must come from within the industry and not be mandated from external parties.”

“Ask yourselves as leaders,“ Burt said, “‘What can I do to encourage all my team? How can I create an environment where everyone feels valued and has opportunity, regardless of their sex?’ Be a role model if you’re female and lead by example.”

IBM’s Christina Montgomery said adopting a “growth mindset” was important for succeeding in privacy. 

“Be open and appreciative of learning,” Montgomery said. “You can’t work in an area evolving as quickly as Privacy and Data protection without being curious and being a lifelong learner.

Inspiring Young Professionals

Several female privacy leaders said having a role model or mentor could be helpful when building a privacy career.

MeritB2B’s Karie Burt said the appointment of Elizabeth France as the UK’s Data Protection Registrar (later Information Commissioner) served as “an example of how this industry is meritocratic and not sexist.”

“It was inspiring to me personally,” Burt said. “She did a wonderful job navigating the ICO through landmark legislation.”

Jarell Oshodi, Deputy Chief Privacy Officer at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), emphasised the importance of mentorship for young women breaking into privacy.

“Seek out mentors early,” Oshodi said. “Don’t be afraid to attend conferences and approach prospective mentees. Let them know that you admire them and would like to learn from them. You may find yourself on a career path or niche you never knew existed.”

Asked what advice she would give to her younger self, Oshodi offered the following guidance:

“I would tell her that she doesn’t need to check all the boxes in the job description,” Oshodi said. 

“I’d tell her to get a professional resume drafted and go for it. I’d also tell her not to accept the first salary offer—and negotiate after researching her value and talking to other people in similar roles.”

Celebrating International Women’s Day

2022 marks 47 years since the UN first recognised International Women’s Day. Over time, the event has become more significant as the professional world has focused more effort on closing gender disparities.

“How can anyone not support International Women’s Day?” asked MeritB2B’s Burt.

“It is all-embracing, transcends cultures, geographies, socio-economic groups. race, creed and marital status.”

Courtney Stout, Chief Privacy Officer at The Coca-Cola Company, said women in privacy and data protection were “leading in shattering the glass ceiling” in celebrating International Women’s Day.

“Six years ago this month, I saw the increasing growth opportunities in this area,” Stout said.

“I predict the growth and prolific changes in industry and regulatory requirements will continue to enable women in Privacy and Data Protection to create a gender-equal world and #BreakTheBias.” 

With thanks to Andrew Menniss for his help with research.

Women In GRC Summit

GRC World Forums will be holding two Women in GRC Summits to celebrate the women who are leading the way in data protection and other governance, risk and compliance fields.

The Women in GRC summit will bring together women from throughout the GRC sector to share their advice, insights and experience—and will recognise those women who are blazing a trail for their peers.

  •  8th November - New York, US
  • 17th November - London, UK

Interested in entering?

Start your application here.