What more can and, indeed, must be done to encourage greater numbers of females to take up careers within the UK’s security business sector? David Ward offers some considered opinions on the matter.
The issue of skills and staff shortages is one which affects the security business sector just as much as it does any other. What’s more, and as is the case for any other business sector, there’s no quick fix on offer.
For business sectors like construction and engineering, there has been a widespread acceptance that education, apprenticeships and training are key, as is the fundamental need to banish preconceptions about these industries being ‘men only’ preserves.
To its great credit, the construction sector has embarked on a campaign designed specifically to address these preconceptions. Importantly, it has relied on a concerted effort to recognise the problem and then actively and visibly present an alternative image to the outside world.
The security business sector 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 Security Industry Authority (SIA) and released in June reveals that only 9% of present SIA licence holders are female. 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 those individuals working in that sector are women.
If the IT security industry thinks it has an issue with gender representation, that’s clearly nothing when compared with our own situation.
The Women’s Security Society: encouraging empowerment
There are very strong initiatives within our sector that look to address the gender issue. The Women’s Security Society, for example, is focused on ‘sharing knowledge, providing support and encouraging the empowerment and success of women in the security industry’.
Nevertheless, there’s a good deal more that can – and, indeed, should – be done to attract new female recruits into security. Once employed within our business sector, women then need to be supported and encouraged by their employers in order that they can duly reach their full potential.
At Ward Security, that potential is well illustrated by Rachael Bannister who joined us back in 2007. Rachael’s commitment to both the company and her profession has seen her rise rapidly through the ranks in a variety of roles that have afforded her excellent working knowledge of the key elements underpinning the successful and responsible delivery of security services.
Rachael joined the company as a security supervisor before moving into the role of compliance manager and then Health and Safety manager. Rachael excelled in all of these roles and, in 2013, was promoted to the position of associate director (operations).
Now, Rachael looks after a large and successful portfolio with three operations managers reporting directly to her. She’s a key player within the operations team and occupies a major role in developing new regions for the company.
Prior to joining the security world, Rachael carved a successful career in the military for a decade and more so perhaps it’s understandable that she then gravitated towards the private security business sector. There are plenty of other ex-military women to whom we should be reaching out and offering relevant opportunities.
Service offer is broadening
We shouldn’t overlook women from civilian backgrounds harbouring a range of experiences and skills that will not only help them develop long and rewarding careers in the security sphere, but which will also help to strengthen the security business sector’s general offer to the marketplace.
We live in a time when security is rapidly evolving and the service offer is broadening. When you consider that technology and customer service are becoming more important by the day, there will be a growing requirement for skill sets that are perhaps not already present in abundance within our industry’s walls. On that basis, we should be spreading the spotlight wider in the search to find people who can bring these highly valuable skill sets to bear.
Of course, we still need to change the basic ‘men only’ perception that many people will understandably have of the security industry. We also 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 will not be welcome?”
The issue of security appearing to be a welcoming business sector is a vital one. We need to celebrate and promote female success in the public realm wherever and whenever we can, and must also ensure that women who work in the security business sector are correctly supported and rewarded. This is the responsibility of employers, and it’s one that we should all be taking very seriously indeed.
If we can reach a place whereby we can match the 14% figure for women working in IT security then that would be a real mark of success, and will set us firmly on the road to a future wherein gender imbalance is no longer an issue for security. That’s something well worth aiming for, isn’t it?
David Ward is Managing Director of Ward Security