‘Be part of the change’: California data experts talk diversity in the privacy sector

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Charlene Wang/Staff
Campus hosted a data privacy panel Wednesday, where panelists discussed the importance of diversity in the field and recommendations for those interested in data privacy.

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In an effort to make the data privacy sector more accessible to underrepresented communities, the campus Privacy Office hosted a panel with data privacy experts from across California on Wednesday.

Panelists spoke about their own experiences in the field while also giving prospective attendants advice regarding what actions to take if they wished to pursue a career in data privacy. Many panelists emphasized that having a background in data science, computer science or the law was not necessary and encouraged those in other fields to see how data privacy affected their own interests.

“There’s absolutely nothing that distinguishes me from anybody else who’s interested and wants to learn about data privacy,” said Thea Bullock, UC Irvine campus privacy official. “This field is not going to look the same in five years or 10 years — it will change and you can choose to come in the door and be part of the change.”

UC San Diego campus privacy officer Pegah Parsi recommended that prospects seek out people in the data privacy field and offer to help because privacy departments are often understaffed.

Van Willams, chief information officer and vice president for Informational Technology Services for the UC Office of the President, added that mentorships and sponsorships are something potential employers should offer to increase opportunities in the field.

Liz Eraker Palley, senior privacy counsel at Google, also noted that increasing diversity and representation in the data privacy sector leads to better decision making and overall better outcomes for companies.

“This is one of the few fields where it’s not overly prescriptive,” said Cheryl Washington, chief information security officer at UC Davis. “There’s still a lot of work for us to do, a lot of things for us to learn, and a lot of things left to figure out — it’s extremely exciting to be part of that.”

Contact Clara Rodas at [email protected], and follow her on Twitter at @crodas_DC.