Maria Malice: Respect, decision by decision

For the fourth consecutive year, SSN is profiling women who are making their mark in the traditionally male-dominated world of security. Malice, Arizona Alarm Association president and a VP at COPS Monitoring, is one of six women featured.
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Monday, November 19, 2012

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz.—She is president of the Arizona Alarm Association, a state board representative in the Electronic Security Association, and vice president of special projects at COPS Monitoring. But before becoming one of the most prominent women in the alarm industry, Maria Malice had to prove to her male colleagues that she belonged.

It wasn’t easy. When she started her career in security in 1985, women rarely moved beyond the receptionist’s desk. That was her first position at ACM UL Monitoring in Phoenix, where she worked for 17 years. She didn’t stay at that post for long, however, quickly taking on more responsibility until she became general manager and eventually vice president.

“I worked my way up,” Malice said. “I’ve actually never been receptionist material—that’s just the way I am. I worked my way out of the job.”

In the process of advancing in the industry she ran into gender bias, which Malice said was far more prevalent 20 years ago than it is now. One incident in particular defined her early experience.

“When I worked at ACM, I actually had a dealer tell me once that he needed to talk to one of the owners because he needed a man, someone who could make a decision,” she said. “Ultimately he learned that he was wrong, that he would have to talk to me because I was the one making the decisions. It was really good for him that we were on the phone. I told him that you didn’t need certain equipment to make a decision, that women have brains too.”

Malice said she experiences less of that bias now, but added it is still a challenge being a woman in this traditionally male-dominated field.

“If I’m meeting with a dealer and there’s a guy with me, they’ll direct the conversation to the guy, even if I’m the one who is answering,” she said. “They’ll ask him the question and I’ll answer it. It doesn’t happen all the time, but it still happens.”

Bringing more women into security would strengthen the industry by providing companies with a different perspective, Malice said, especially when it comes to sales. She suggested creating an industry mentoring program and a group similar to the ESA’s Young Security Professionals that is specifically tailored to women.

“For somebody who’s doing sales, most of the time, especially in a residential setting, they’re actually selling to a woman,” Malice said. “Why not take the woman’s point of view? You need to learn that side so you can be better at what you’re doing.”

Malice conceded that “it’s going to take time” before women have equal footing with men in security, but she said progress continues to be made.

“It’s come a long way for there to be female presidents of state [alarm] associations,” she said. “There are several of us, and that’s an awesome thing. It shows that we are starting to move in the right direction.”

As for her own move from restaurant management into security more than 25 years ago, Malice said she hasn’t lost any sleep. Unfortunately, she hasn’t gained any either.

“I had really decided that I wanted a job that didn’t include nights, weekends and holidays,” she said with a laugh. “Not only is this nights, weekends and holidays, it’s a central station. I did a great job, didn’t I?”