What do we need to do to encourage more women into security?

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The issue of skills and staff shortages is one which affects the security industry just as much as any other industry, and just as with any other industry there is no quick fix. For industries such as construction and engineering, there has been a widespread acceptance that education, apprenticeships and training are key, as is the fundamental need to blow away preconceptions about these industries being ‘men only’ preserves. To its credit, the construction industry has embarked on a campaign to address these preconceptions, but it has relied on a concerted effort to recognise the problem and to actively and visibly present an alternative image.

The security industry should take note of the construction industry’s approach as the gender percentages (and therefore the challenges) are approximately the same. Independent research commissioned by the SIA released in June revealed that just 9% of SIA licence holders are women. This low figure is perhaps best illustrated when compared to the IT security sector where research by recruitment agency BeecherMadden suggests that just 14% of people working in that sector are women. So if the IT security industry thinks it has an issue with gender representation, it is nothing compared with our issue.

Of course there are very strong initiatives within our industry that look to address gender. The Women’s Security Society for example is focussed on ‘sharing knowledge, providing support and encouraging the empowerment and success of women in the security industry’. But still there is a lot more that can, and should be done to attract new female recruits into security, and once here, women need to be supported and encouraged by their employers in order that they can reach their full potential.

At Ward Security that potential is well illustrated by Rachael Bannister, who joined us in 2007. Her commitment to both the company and her profession have seen her rise rapidly through the ranks in a variety of roles that have given her excellent working knowledge of the key elements that underpin successful and responsible delivery of the security service.

Rachael joined the company as Security Supervisor before moving into the role of Compliance Manager, and then Health & Safety Manager. In all roles she excelled and in 2013 was promoted to the position of Associate Director Operations. She has a large and successful portfolio and three Operations Managers reporting to her. Rachael is a key player within the Operations Team and plays a major role in developing new regions for the company.

Rachael has a decade worth of prior military career, so perhaps it is understandable that she gravitated towards the security industry. But still, there are plenty of other ex-military women who we should be reaching out to and offering opportunities.

However, we should not overlook women from civilian backgrounds who will have a range of experience and skills that will not only help them develop long and rewarding careers in security, but which will help to strengthen the security industry’s offer to the marketplace.

We live in a time when security is rapidly evolving and the service offer is broadening. And when you consider that technology and customer service are becoming more important by the day, there will be a growing requirement for skillsets that perhaps aren’t already in abundance within the industry walls. So we should be spreading the spotlight wider in the search to find people who can bring these highly valuable skillsets to bear. But of course we still need to change the basic ‘men only’ perception that many people will understandably have of the industry. And we need to ask ourselves, how many fantastic candidates with critical and valuable skills are looking for work yet not looking in our direction because they think they don’t belong, or they don’t think they will be welcome?

The issue of appearing to be a welcoming industry is key. We need to celebrate and promote female success in the public realm where we can, and we need to ensure that women who work in the industry are supported and rewarded. That is the responsibility of employers, and it is one that we should all take seriously.

If we can reach a place where we can match the 14% figure for women working in IT security that will be a real mark of success and will put us firmly on the road to a future where gender imbalance is no longer an issue for security. That’s something worth aiming for.

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