Freddie Mac: Advancing Women Leaders in Cybersecurity
Chief of Staff and Senior Director Michelle Bennett is focused on connecting and advancing women in technology, information security, risk and related fields. In this article, Michelle shares the importance of sisterhood in building the next generation of women leaders.
Five years ago, Michelle recognized a gap in the support system for existing and rising women leaders in her sector. "We have women working in tech and various programs across Freddie Mac. We've begun to form certain synergies—but without an umbrella to really unite us." So, she spearheaded a partnership with the Executive Women's Forum (EWF) to not only bring these women together but to provide learning and networking opportunities with thought leaders from around the world.
Forming trusted relationshipsWhen Michelle started her career at Freddie Mac 28 years ago, the landscape for women in tech and risk looked very different. "It used to be less common to see women leaders in security and privacy fields," she says. "It's essential that we take our seat at the table now and bring other women along with us. Women uplifting other women—there is a real need for that in this space." For Michelle, the relationships she developed over the years with her women colleagues can be described as nothing less than a sisterhood. "Women who saw potential in me that I hadn't known was there were building my confidence, pushing me to the next level in my career." Through her own experience, she could see that there was a growing need to provide mentorship for women, specifically in technology fields.
Developing future leadersEach year since 2015, Michelle has taken the lead of managing a cohort of 20 women to participate in EWF and bringing messages of empowerment back to the Freddie Mac. The partnership with EWF, sponsored by the Office of Inclusive Engagement, provides unique opportunities for members to network and develop leadership skills with specific risk and compliance focus in the information and technology risk space. "Listening to women across the globe describe the challenges they have overcome to be where they are is incredibly powerful and being able to share the softer side of these experiences with one another is invaluable," said Michelle. "These are senior women I know I can call on; I feel honored to be a part of this." Through the benefits of the EWF partnership, members have had the opportunity to participate in several career-building events and programs, including the EWF National Conference, networking dinners, regional meetings with keynote speakers and panelists, peer mentoring, webinar series and more.
Building a networkPromoting the development of women leaders is a priority within Freddie Mac and the primary mission of the Women's Interactive Network (WIN) BRG. In October, the EWF cohort and WIN partnered together to share resources, grow the community of women leaders and strengthen their overall impact within the company. "Other women brought me out of my comfort zone," recalls Michelle. "I would not be where I am today if it wasn't for them."
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Khristy Young is used to working hard.
She came to the U.S. from the Philippines at 19, computer science degree in hand, and landed her first job in tech, working in frontline support, at 21.
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What are your best work-life integration tips during this challenging time? Let us know in the comments.
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