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February 21 2024

DEI SPOTLIGHT: International Organization of Black Security Executives

The Security Foundation is proud to feature organizations within the security profession making a difference in diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) awareness, recruitment and retention efforts for the industry.

The International Organization of Black Security Executives (IOBSE) is the leading organization for people of color in the security profession. Founded in 1982 by six Black security leaders attending an ASIS International conference, IOBSE, a membership organization, is dedicated to providing professional resource, educational programs and networking for security professionals from underrepresented communities, at all levels.

Guided by a talented board of directors and advisory board, IOBSE sponsors several programs each year, including the annual IOBSE Conference, which includes dozens of college-aged students interested in the profession. Each student applies for and is selected for a full sponsorship that covers the costs of attending the conference.

IOBSE Conference and Student Attendees

In October 2023, IOBSE celebrated its 41st anniversary at its annual conference hosted by Salesforce in Atlanta. IOBSE sponsored 31 students from across the U.S., mostly juniors and seniors from Historically Black Colleges and Universities, to attend the 2023 event. The IOBSE Student Committee, IOBSE board  and advisory members recruit students at these colleges throughout the year.

Students asking questions during IOBSE conference

For the students, attending the IOBSE conference is an eye-opening experience of what their professional future could be. It’s also a celebration of the leadership of people of color in the industry. Students enjoy a robust student training day with IOBSE leaders and members, held the day before the conference. This session introduces them to professionals, the opportunities within the industry and the ongoing support offered by IOBSE.

“When the students arrive, most aren’t looking at the security industry as a career path,” notes Bobby Louissaint, IOBSE Board member and Communications Director. “We work hard to share the  significance of a security career path. Once they understand the opportunities, the lightbulbs goes on.”

The student training day ends with a welcome reception where students meet IOBSE members and use the networking skills they’ve practiced earlier in the day. “We push the students to go introduce themselves to the professionals,” Bobby adds. “They meet VPs, seniors leaders, Corporate Security Officers and people who are working toward those positions. These are people who look like them, from similar backgrounds, who are successful in the security industry at companies like Salesforce, Amazon, Meta and major retailers and manufacturers. I love to see the students light up when they meet security leaders.”

Connecting students to professionals of color at all levels of the industry is critical, says Bobby: “We need to start really thinking about taking on the risk of training. We can’t keep saying that it’s hard for us to hire young people because we’re looking for people with experience. We must create roles for all young people, not just young minorities.”

Read about Bobby Louissaint’s security journey.

Mentoring and Networking Opportunities
A student receiving recognition at the IOBSE conference

While mentors are not assigned to each student, most, if not all, connect with a mentor at the conference. IOBSE intentionally connects the students with its volunteers on IOBSE’s young professionals or student membership team, which works with the students year-round. Many IOBSE leadership members take on the role of mentor. Bobby is currently mentoring two young women who attended the 2023 conference and has mentored a dozen or so students over the course of the program.

Students then attend the conference sessions as active participants. The 2023 IOBSE conference included a gala event during which all students are honored. This year, the gala was the “Sneaker Ball” in honor of 50 years of hip hop. Guests wore sneakers with their formal wear, a nod to hip hop culture.

The IOBSE conference recruits Asian, Hispanic and white students as well. “We recruit for whom we feel fits this industry,” Bobby says. That spirit of inclusivity extends to professional participation. “One of my counterparts, a white man, came for the first time two years ago and was blown away by the engagement from the students,” he says. “My friend wasn’t sure that the students would want to network with him, but the next thing I see is him at a table surrounded by seven students. Yes, IOBSE is a minority-led organization, but we are not just about Black students. We are about breaking down barriers for the next generation, so they can make the connections they need to succeed.”

IOBSE Scholarship Program

In addition to seeking sponsors to support student attendees at the conference, each attendee can apply for and receive an IOBSE scholarship. Funds for the scholarship are dependent upon the level of conference sponsorships.

IOBSE scholarships assist with books, tuition and other financial expenses for a minority student interested in pursuing a career in security.

For more information on the IOBSE Scholarship program, visit iobse.org/scholarships.

Thank you, IOBSE, for your DEI leadership and all that you are doing to expand and diversify the needed representation of women and people of color in our industry.
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