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Keynote and two-time TEDx speaker Henna Pryor talking about how and why to lean into being awkward on 25 June at the 2024 Security LeadHER Conference. (Photo by Anthologie for SIA and ASIS)

2024 Security LeadHER: Leveraging Allies, Influence, and Awkwardness for a Stronger Security Industry

At the 2024 Security LeadHER conference in Phoenix, Arizona, more than 400 women and men who work and lead in the security industry had the opportunity to learn, converse, and inspire each other for two days at the end of June.

The second annual event, hosted by ASIS International and the Security Industry Association (SIA), featured keynote speakers, thought leaders, and panel discussions. Focused around the theme of empowerment, the event encouraged attendees to continue to learn, grow, and feel engaged within the security industry.

In an industry with a historically strong male presence, minority empowerment cannot be done alone, but when accomplished it will benefit the larger security industry.

“I need partners,” says Julaine Simmons, vice president of security and electronic systems for M.C. Dean. Simmons was part of a panel that discussed male allyship. Being an ally means providing active support for a minority or marginalized group without being a member of the group. Simmons sees male allies as the people who will professionally advocate for her even when she’s not in the room.

Simmons was joined on the panel by Kevin Engelhardt, president of Securitas Technologies US, and John Nemerofsky, COO of SAGE Integration. Echoing Simmons, Engelhardt stressed the importance of allyship. “One person can only do so much—it takes many,” he says.

A big step in securing male allyship comes from women who show men how to provide support, the panelists explained. “You have to say the words out loud. You actually have to ask for help,” Simmons says.

Understandably, asking for help can feel uncomfortable or even awkward—as can many other seemingly risky scenarios within the workplace.

“There are real costs to being an outsider, to being wrong, to making a mistake,” says Henna Pryor, a global keynote speaker, two-time TEDx speaker, and workplace performance expert with the Pryority Group. And the fear that comes from standing out or making a mistake can hamper someone from moving forward.

The thing to remember, however, is that the people who take more professional risks are the ones who increase their adaptability and innovation and take control of their careers, Pryor says.

One way to bridge a fear-based gap is to intentionally step into an embarrassing moment, she explains. By frontloading the uncomfortable, or looking for the “flopportunity,” as Pryor says, you can focus on the awkward thing first and get it out of the way, shaking off the hold that fear of embarrassment or failure may have on you.

“New learning pathways, new neural pathways only have a chance to happen when we do something, get feedback, and do it again," Pryor says. "It’s the only way that they grow. And the only way build those pathways is getting down and dirty in the awkward.”

On top of embracing risk and awkwardness to build connections and grow professional muscles, Lida Citroën, CEO of executive coaching and personal branding consultancy LIDA 360, outlined how women can develop influence. Not to be confused with the number of likes received via social media, Citroën focused on the influence that promotes the qualities of seriousness and respect, which in turn can support someone in becoming stronger and more confident.

There are four foundational steps in becoming influential, Citroën explained: understanding why you want to be influential by determining your motivations; determining who you need to influence to achieve your goals; how to influence others by focusing on how you present yourself, through both personal branding and consistency; and the ways and platforms you use to be visible to those you want to influence.

“We have to see you in order to be influenced by you,” Citroën says, encouraging attendees to raise their hand in meetings and sit at the table before being invited.

She also pointed out that by letting others into projects, meetings, or networks, you can grow your influence even further. “You grow your power when you bring others in,” she says.


Security LeadHER 2025 will be held 9-10 June in Detroit, Michigan. For more information about upcoming and previous events, visit