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Case Studies

Landmark OSPAs webinar

Prof Martin Gill held the latest OSPAs thought leadership webinar this afternoon – the 150th, having started in March 2020 at the start of the UK’s first covid lockdown. The topic for this landmark event: EDI, equality, diversity and inclusion. As ever the panel was an authoritative and informative, all-UK one:

– Jane Farrell – Head of Security UK and Ireland at the facilities contractor Sodexo, and who’s a former chair of the industry body IPSA and leads on diversity for the association;
– Arevika Stepanian – ASIS UK Board Director for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion; who in her day job is head of marketing for the London-based guarding contractor STM Group, a member of the ACS Pacesetters group of high-scoring SIA-approved contractors; and
– Oliver Lincoln – UK Sales Manager, Securitas Security Services.

As ever the 45-minute webinar began with the panel each briefly introducing themselves, before making an opening statement; then Martin Gill posed questions sent beforehand, and typed by audience members. Martin closed by asking each what they would like to see happen, to make this issue more accepted. Jane asked for industry backing; and for the re-defining of the security officer role, and made the point of how successful a career in security can be, for all diverse groups. Arevika suggested that every company (as STM has) should employ or nominate a well-being and inclusion champion; a person with a passion for these issues and for working on them internally with colleagues; besides a working group to meet whether monthly or quarterly. Oliver felt similarly, and wanted to see action; not just a rubber-stamp, but really making things happen. “It’s action that people want to see on the ground, not just statements.”

As for what ought to be seen and heard on the ground – and the webinar did hear of some concern that these inclusivity messages were not reaching the ‘front line’: partly it’s about perceptions. As Arevika began by saying, with one or two exceptions, security has been dominated by men and by the ex-police and ex-military; and by traditional, masculine attributes. What changes should there be? Success stories ought there should be profiled, was one of the suggestions by Jane. It’s also about not making assumptions; such as that someone has a wife, or a boy- or girl-friend.

Language, and what Oliver called ‘visual cues’ – he was wearing a Securitas rainbow company lanyard for his ID – also featured. Homophobic slurs may be ok to use, down the proverbial or actual pub, among your mates, if that’s what you want to do; but not to work colleagues. Here Oliver mentioned how Linkedin has allowed its network users to use a preferred pronoun. (The December 2021 print edition of Professional Security featured the online launch of a ‘rainbow’ group under the umbrella of the Security Institute, which has since progressed to starting online conversations.)

EDI (equality, diversity, inclusion) partly, then, is of a piece with a more modern – and genuine – story of the security industry as having changed, drastically, and being open to women, and an enjoyable place to work in for others other than the stereotypical bloke. It’s not (in retail loss prevention) so much about catching and arresting shop thieves, but about saying ‘can I help you’, giving customer service (which also serves to put the thief on notice that they are being watched, and hopefully to deter them from thieving). Arevika mentioned work that STM Group has done for rail operators at station platforms, preventing suicides on the line.

The webinar did tease out that seeking to act on EDI has potential pitfalls; such as, if a company is seeking to gather data on its workforce, that has to be in accordance with data protection law, and staff have to have confidence that it’ll be kept confidential; anonymous. No point in a company survey for the sake of it; as an exercise.

More in the March print edition of Professional Security magazine.

You can listen freely to this and past OSPAs webinars on the OSPAs website, and sign up to webinars; the next is on Thursday, January 20, on the proposed Protect Duty to cover the UK after the 2017 Manchester Arena bombing. Visit https://theospas.com/thought-leadership-webinars/.

Picture by Mark Rowe: railway arch near London Waterloo.


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