Battling Cyber Crime and Gender Stereotypes - United Hub

Battling cyber crime and gender stereotypes

By Matt Adams, March 02, 2018

"Just a bobby on the beat." That's how United's Chief Information Security Officer Emily Heath describes it when talking about the beginning of her remarkable career, the first step on a path that led her to where she is today, protecting one of the world's largest airlines from all manner of cyber threats.

Back then, more than 20 years ago, Heath was part of the thin blue line keeping Macclesfield, England, safe as an officer with the Cheshire (County) Police. And while the sophisticated criminal hackers she now battles might be a far cry from car burglars and pub brawlers, some things never change: Heath still relies on the same quick thinking and strong sense of right and wrong that made her a good cop. And whether she was wearing a badge or a business suit, right from the start Heath has had to learn to succeed in traditionally male-dominated professions.

That realization hit her during her first shift meeting on her first day on the beat in Macclesfield. "You'd have 20 people in the room, and it was only me and maybe one other woman," she says. "It was kind of intimidating as a young bobby to be in the midst of that kind of male energy. I remember male officers walking in and saying to me, 'I'll take two sugars in mine,' assuming that I would make the tea for them."

Emily Heath on the job when she worked for the Cheshire Police.

Heath endured her share of hazing early on, but she persevered and soon developed a strong rapport with the men in her unit. In short time, she rose to the rank of detective, investigating high-level financial crime, money laundering and identity theft. Then one day, she realized she needed a change of pace.

Leaving police work behind, Heath started a website design firm, learning to code with a stack of books on HTML. It was a career left turn, but nothing like the one she would find herself taking a few months later when a client who recognized her talent for leadership asked Heath to manage a software implementation project.

Through sheer determination, she quickly became a highly sought after IT program manager. By that time, preventing cybercrime was emerging as a focal point for organizations. When one of her former CIOs asked Heath to oversee their company's security and compliance initiatives, she found that enforcing law and order in the digital realm was a natural fit. But in IT, she also found that, once again, she had to prove herself in a field occupied primarily by men.

"It's been like that everywhere I've ever worked," she says. "We all know that, as women, we have to stand out, that we have to work harder and have to find respect differently than men do."

When she was recruited to United in early 2017, Heath found a refreshing environment, with executive vice president and chief digital officer Linda Jojo at the helm of the technology division. Women now comprise approximately 40 percent of the employees in United's cyber security group, nearly four times higher than the industry average, something that Heath views as a significant advantage.

"If I had a team of people from the same background, they would attack a problem in the same way," she says. "When you've got people from different walks of life, they tackle a problem in ways that are so creative. I cannot overemphasize how important that is, particularly in the world of cyber security where we need all the creative muscle we can get."

When attending conferences and meetings with her peers, Heath still sometimes finds that she's one of only a few women in the room, but the numbers are growing. Lately, though, she's observed a new trend, one that she'd like to help quash while encouraging women, especially young women, to put aside self-doubt when it comes to their careers.

"Now that organizations are looking to diversify," says Heath, "the women I talk with have a new worry, and that is, 'Am I only in this role because I'm a woman?' I say throw that to the water because it does not matter. There's not a single man out there who would ask that question. Instead, ask yourself is the organization better as a result of me being here? And if it is, you should stand tall."

Celebrating immigration perspectives and diverse journeys

By The Hub team, September 25, 2020

From Sept. 15 through Oct. 15, the U.S. celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month, a chance to pay tribute to the history, culture and contributions that generations of Latinxs have paved to enrich U.S. history. It is also a reminder to celebrate our differences and spark difficult, yet important, conversations.

To kick off the month, UNITE, our multicultural business resource group for employees, did just that by hosting a panel discussion about the immigrant experience and what it means to be an immigrant in the U.S.

United Litigation and Managing Counsel Elizabeth Lopez, who is a pro bono immigration attorney, moderated the panel, and was joined by Ashley Huebner, Associate Director of Legal Services at the National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) and Magdalena Gonzalez, Program Manager, Leadership Development Programs at Hispanic Alliance for Career Enhancement. The three women shared their insights and personal stories, while addressing some misconceptions and highlighting the contributions of immigrants to our company and country.

Participants' headshots from United's Hispanic Heritage Month Panel From left to right, Elizabeth Lopez, Ashely Huebner and Magdalena Gonzalez

"I started to notice that there were things I was scared of doing, that I needed to be cautious," said Magdalena while sharing her personal experience as a DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) recipient. "My friends, who a majority of them are citizens, did not need to worry about that. As I was able to see that, I realized that, 'oh, there's so many things that revolve around not just being a DACA recipient but revolve around being a person with an undocumented status here in the United States.'"

United maintains a close relationship with the NIJC. In May of 2019, United co-hosted an asylum clinic put on by the legal services organization, where several attorneys and legal professionals were trained on representing asylum-seeking applicants. At the end of the clinic, members of our legal department were assigned an asylum case through the NIJC.

Litigation Managing Counsel Elizabeth Lopez, Commercial Transactions Counsel Tiffany Jaspers, Global Compliance and Ethics Counsel Nancy Jacobson and Employment Litigation Senior Manager Dorothy Karpierz were partnered with attorneys from the law firm of McDermott Will & Emery to take on an immigration case of a mother of three from Honduras. Recently, after a years-long court battle, the legal team was victorious, changing the life of the woman and her family.

United is committed to connecting people and uniting the world. Whether you're an immigrant, a child of immigrants or simply want to learn more about the immigrant experience in the U.S., discussions like these, related to this hot-button issue, are important to have in order to understand the human lives behind it.

Make your voice heard

By Brett J. Hart, September 22, 2020

Your voice matters. Voting is one of the most influential civic activities we can engage in as Americans. At United, our mission is to connect people and unite the world — and one of the most important ways to do that is to engage in the democratic process. That's why we've long provided our employees with resources to help them get registered to vote.

This year, we're taking our support a step further as the official airline of the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD). Since the start of the pandemic, we've overhauled our cleaning measures through a program we call United CleanPlusSM , and the CPD has placed their trust in United to fly Commission production staff to each of the four debates, starting with the first one on September 29, hosted by Cleveland Clinic and Case Western Reserve University.

Today, on National Voter Registration Day, we also want to make sure our customers have access to information about how to participate in the 2020 Election. Over the past several months, you've heard a lot from us about how the COVID-19 pandemic has changed air travel. We've learned that with some planning and extra effort, it's still possible — and safe. That's true of voting, too.

No matter which party you support or how you're planning to vote, we know our democracy will be stronger if you make your voice heard and make a plan to vote.

Best,

Brett J. Hart
President
United Airlines

United named to Year Up Opportunity Hall of Fame

By The Hub team, September 17, 2020

Since its launch 20 years ago, Year Up, one of our critical needs grant recipients, has helped more than 10,000 young adults gain access to corporate business and technical experience at large companies like United while offering the invaluable perspectives they bring with them.

On Wednesday, the nonprofit inducted United into its Opportunity Hall of Fame – a selection that occurs once every five years.

Year Up's mission is to help close the opportunity divide by providing urban young adults with the skills, experience and support that will empower them to reach their potential through professional careers and higher education. Since 2018, our partnership has allowed talented student learners the opportunity to gain corporate business experience and technical skill training at the airline while bringing their unique perspectives to our United family and culture. One of those students is Emily Lopez, who graduated from the Year Up program in January 2019 and was hired to be part of the United family as an analyst in Revenue Management.

"I moved from Venezuela to the United States in July 2016 and being a young immigrant with no resources can be difficult to pursue a career in a new country," said Emily.

After learning about Year Up and ultimately being accepted into the program, Emily landed an internship with United, an opportunity she is very grateful for.

Emily Lopez - Analyst, Pricing & Revenue Management

"Feedback from my mentors, coaches and managers was key during my internship phase and helped me convert my internship at United to a full-time position. I am grateful for the opportunity United has provided me and my Year Up Alumni colleagues to keep building a professional career within the company. I am so excited to continue building a professional career with the company and to see United being inducted to Year Up's Hall of Fame. Let's continue closing the opportunity divide!" said Emily.

Although the coronavirus pandemic has made this year's partnership a bit more difficult, we continue to do our part to support the Year Up student learners. Last month, we surprised 145 graduates of this year's Year Up Chicago program with roundtrip tickets to pursue career and networking opportunities within the United States.

"I've been personally honored and inspired to be an advocate for Year Up since I joined United," said CEO Scott Kirby. "This program gives young people from challenged backgrounds an opportunity to get their foot in the door as interns at United. This year's graduates are entering a challenging job landscape, but we have one thing that can help: a route network that provides easy access to major business markets across the United States."

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