Dec 5, 2017 /

OSAC Hosts First-Ever Women in Security Forum

OSAC hosted its first forum for women within the security industry.

Held just prior to OSAC’s 32nd State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service Annual Briefing, the Women in Security Forum drew more than 200 attendees from around the globe to network and to hear three dynamic speakers.

Organized by OSAC’s Research Information and Support Center (RISC) staff and held at Boeing on November 14, 2017, the afternoon program was a great success. The Forum, which was created to recognize the growing numbers of women in the security industry, was the first event for the ongoing OSAC program to recognize the important perspective women bring to the field.

The program opened with Sandy Cowie, ‎Director, Global Security and Business Continuity, ‎Principal, welcoming the packed room and sharing her personal and professional passion for this inaugural OSAC event and OSAC’s focus on supporting women in a field dominated by men. “As business people, we understand that if we have different backgrounds and experiences, as a team, we are going to be more impactful,” explained Sandy, who serves as Co-Chair of the OSAC Private Sector. Her embrace of this new initiative is typical of the vision and enthusiasm she brings to her OSAC leadership role.


Keynote Remarks by Cathy Lanier

Cathy Lanier, the first female Chief of Police for Washington, D.C. and the new Chief Security Officer and Senior Vice President of Security, National Football League, the first woman to hold that position, offered keynote remarks.

With heartfelt candor, leadership insight and humor, Cathy shared her path to law enforcement in her early 20’s and her appointment as Police Chief (and her unheard-of tenure through three D.C. Mayors) to her new role leading security for the NFL. “After I got my GED, I saw an ad to be a police officer in D.C., where I would be eligible for tuition reimbursement. I was the only white female in a room of 1,000 people applying for the job,” Cathy told the crowd. “I started in 1990 at 23 years old and made Captain in a little over seven years. It’s really about what drives you. [As a teen mother], I was motivated by the birth of my son. Every minute of every day forward was for him.”

She felt the same responsibility on her first day as Police Chief as she saw the Capitol from her new office: “It dawned on me that I had a tremendous opportunity. Women were so excited a woman had been nominated. I didn’t want to let them down or let my mom down. I thought, ‘I can’t blow this.’ It’s the same feeling I had when I looked into my son’s eyes when he was a newborn.”

Cathy’s wisdom on leadership and on the many priorities that women balance between career and home resonated with the attendees. For her, family comes first, whether working to support her son or mother. “[The NFL job] was an opportunity to do something new and different and to provide for my family,” she explained. “[During my career,] when I took over various positions, I wasn’t ready. Regardless of your experience and background, your commitment is really what matters. When your gut instinct is very, very strong, you’ve got to go with your gut. As women we see things differently. Diversity makes a much better decision-making body.”

Read about Cathy’s career history and role at the NFL.

The Women in Security Forum program finished with an interactive facilitated coaching session by Cathy Raines, Coaching Program Manager and Leadership Development Specialist, Foreign Service Institute, U.S. Department of State. She walked the enthusiastic group through the GROW model of coaching, with attendees working in pairs to address a real-life work or work/life balance issue:

G (Goal: Identify objectives)
R (Reality: Assess the situation)
O (Options: Discuss the possibilities)
W (Work: Commit to a plan of action)

Her exercise created excitement and energy around the networking and problem-solving opportunities in the room. Following the session, attendees continued their coaching, mentoring and networking at a reception, with many connections fostered throughout OSAC’s 32nd Annual Briefing November 15-17 and on November 15 at the ISF 5th Annual OSAC Appreciation Dinner.

With the overwhelming enthusiasm for this first-ever OSAC event specifically addressing the unique perspective of women leaders in the security field within the public and private sectors, OSAC looks forward to building on the momentum of November 14 and providing more women’s networking forums.

Thank you to OSAC and the RISC staff for organizing this popular Forum, to the speakers for their inspiring words and to the attendees for participating and engaging with this exciting, new OSAC network. Pictured (l. to r.): Jenna Klym; Cathy Lanier; Tom Scalon, OSAC  Executive Director; Cathy Raines; and Sandy Cowie.

To learn more about the Women In Security Forum and networking opportunities, please email Jenna Klym, OSAC Research and Information Support Center at

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