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Freelance journalist

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Ron Alalouff is a journalist specialising in the fire and security markets, and a former editor of websites and magazines in the same fields.
April 27, 2023

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IFSEC Interviews

‘I was seen as a secretary, not a salesperson’ – Eddie Reynolds on increasing diversity in security and attracting the next generation

Ron Alalouff hears from Eddie Reynolds, CEO of iluminar, on her drive to increase gender and ethnic diversity in the security sector and promote it to the next generation.

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Eddie Reynolds, CEO and founder of iluminar

Eddie Reynolds works extensively to promote gender and ethnic diversity in the security industry in the US. She is an executive advisory board member for the Security Industry Association, and serves on the education committee of the International Organization of Black Security Executives. Her day job is as founder and CEO of iluminar, a manufacturer and supplier of IR and white light illuminators based in Irvine, California.


How did you first become involved in the security industry, and what attracted you to it?

Eddie Reynolds (ER): I was previously involved in promoting organic hair and skincare products for African American women when an old schoolfriend suggested joining the security firm he worked for. I immediately thought of security guarding, but in fact the job I eventually got was on the electronic side of Chubb in Texas.

I had no qualifications in or experience of electronics or security, but it seemed like an interesting thing to do. I then moved on to an account management job at Pinkerton. The security industry provides you with a plethora of opportunities.

The security industry has traditionally been very male dominated in the UK. Is this also the case in the United States?

ER: It’s a very similar situation in the United States. The industry is male dominated, but it’s slowly beginning to change. The large multi-national corporations such as Johnson Controls and Convergint are really diversifying, and there are a lot more businesses owned by women than was previously the case.

What was it like starting out as a woman in the industry in 1996?

ER: I developed and maintained a lot of relationships, and networking was key to this. Starting off in a male-dominated industry was challenging, though. At the time, the men were making double the earnings I was on.

When the guys went out for lunch or socialised with customers, I was not included – they didn’t see me as a salesperson but rather as a secretary. So, I just needed to figure out a strategy to cope with this. Part of it was accepting being called “Eddie” rather than Edwina.

In your experience, has there been any progress in increasing gender and ethnic diversity in the last five years or so?

ER: I actually stopped working with the SIA (Security Industry Association) in the early days after setting up my business iluminar in 2009, as I felt women like me were not recognised and that it was still being run by the same people. But in 2018, they reached out to me, saying they were making changes, and brought me on as an executive advisory board member.

I’ve also been working with the IOBSE (International Organization of Black Security Executives) which provides security and management focused educational programmes for members at all career levels.

What about younger people? How does the industry attract them and compete with other professions which may seem more appealing?

ER: With the IOBSE, I visit HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) to promote and discuss careers in security. These universities are predominantly situated in the South and some of the East coast where segregation was common before the Civil Rights Act 1964.

Within SIA, I’m on the TIME (Talent, Inclusion, Mentorship, Education) steering committee , which itself is part of the RISE community that helps foster the careers of young professionals in the security industry. Here we develop standards for mentors and mentees and call for mentors and then vet their applications.

We then call for mentees – who can be college students or young people already working – and match them up with suitable mentors. Our objective is to guide them so that they can perform to the best of their abilities, in what can sometimes be an intimidating environment for young people or newer entrants.

How do you make the security industry attractive to young people, when you’re competing with industries and professions that might be perceived as more enticing?

ER: There are many different career facets in security. Cyber security and AI are just two examples of areas that are ‘hot’. Consultancy is another area that can be appealing to those seeking intellectual satisfaction. This industry will afford you every opportunity and the possibilities are only limited by your imagination.

What do you think will be the benefits of attracting a more gender and ethnically diverse workforce to the security industry?

ER: SIA is now working with ASIS International, which in turn is working with diverse organisations, which is great.

In my view, everybody’s experience brings something else to the table, including race and ethnicity. I think the industry should be like the world we live in.

How do you find the time to promote diversity and carry out mentoring when you have a day job as well?

ER: I have a good calendar! I make the time to give back to the industry something that is near and dear to me. I remember that it was intimidating when I started – people like to go with their egos.

What do you like doing in your spare time – if you have any?

ER: I love cooking and I’m a big foodie. I cook in batches to freeze so that when people come round, there’s always something to serve them.

I love the industry that I’m in. It has let me travel the world to places that I only saw on a map as a child. Colleagues have become friends. There are certainly more positives than negatives in this industry!


WATCH: We hosted a webinar discussion on ethnic and cultural diversity in the security sector in March 2023. Watch the session on demand, below!

Listen to the IFSEC Insider podcast!

Each month, the IFSEC Insider (formerly IFSEC Global) Security in Focus podcast brings you conversations with leading figures in the physical security industry. Covering everything from risk management principles and building a security culture, to the key trends ahead in tech and initiatives on diversity and inclusivity, the podcast keeps security professionals up to date with the latest hot topics in the sector.

Available online, and on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and Google Podcasts, tune in for an easy way to remain up to date on the issues affecting your role.

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