I’m Kerinda Ibbotson, Sales and Marketing Director at Cardinal Security, and although I’m very proud to be part the security industry, I’m well aware that as a woman I’m most definitely in the minority. It’s a situation that causes me a great deal of concern and I feel that more should be done to encourage more women into it.
According to the British Security Industry Association (BSIA) an estimated 352,000 people are employed by the UK’s security industry, yet what we don’t know is exactly how many of them are women. Statistics of this kind are seemingly non-existent but estimates suggest that women account for around 10 per cent of the total workforce. So why are so few women part of an industry that offers flexibility, variety and a level of career progression that few others can boast?
Much of it comes down to image and perception. If you were to ask a member of the public to describe a security professional, the chances are that the first word mentioned will be ‘male’. They are also likely to think that they have a background in the military or police force and possess a decidedly macho personality. This might well be a stereotype but there is a certain amount of truth in it – and it’s proving very difficult for the industry to shake off.
The security industry is not for everyone, as combined with the inherent risks involved with this type of work, it requires tenacity, determination and the ability to stand one’s ground in some challenging situations. Furthermore, when it comes to manned guarding, much of it takes place outside the 9.00am-5.00pm parameter, so is unappealing to women who have young families and find arranging childcare a problem. If we are to harness this untapped potential, security services providers need to look at how we can provide more flexible working hours in order to get a more balanced workforce.
There are positive signs of improvement though. For instance, the influx of technology in all aspects of security has created new opportunities beyond the traditional roles. In this respect, women have been at the vanguard of change, particularly in areas such as retail security and loss prevention. With the need for greater visibility and a higher level of education, women are often adept at getting businesses to talk more about their challenges and taking all members of staff on a journey that increases sales and reduce losses.
Despite the current gender disparity, the reality is that more women have joined the industry in recent years from a wider occupational or sector gene pool, bringing with them a diverse range of skills and career experiences. There is also greater recognition of the role women play through initiatives such as Professional Security Magazine’s Women in Security Awards, which recognise and honour their accomplishments, value, and contributions within the wider world of security.
Women are taking an active role in challenging the status quo and reflect the need for new approaches to both traditional and emerging threats. Studies have also highlighted that, while many men have excellent levels of emotional intelligence, women are especially good at being able to identify, assess, and control situations – attributes the are invaluable in security-based work. However, success is also down to attitude and I have always found that when you demonstrate knowledge, expertise, and credibility – regardless of whether you are male or female, young or old, minority or majority – those around you respond favourably.
There’s a long way to go in terms of creating a more diverse workforce but it is incumbent upon the entire security industry to highlight the role of women, particularly those of us who have successful careers. In June Cardinal Security in conjunction with Loss Prevention Magazine Europe hosted an Ascot Races Ladies’ Day Networking Event. It was a wonderful day and I enjoyed finding out more about the thoughts of my female peers from companies such as Sally Beauty, Amazon, Swarovski, and the Home Retail Group. I will delve into our discussion points in upcoming blogs and the ideas raised about how we can address the gender diversity issue.