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Interviews

How women benefit the security industry

Ahead of International Women’s Day on Monday, Julie Hulme, Director of Expeditious Services and an Institute of Workplace and Facilities Management (IWFM) North committee member, describes how women benefit the security industry and offers some reflections on her career so far.

In December 2020, the most recent SIA figures show only 11 per cent of applications were from women – a disappointing statistic.

Back in the start of my career, over 25 years ago, I was often the only female in the room. I remember having a firm belief I was able to change the industry for the better, with a fresh approach through female eyes. Today, I’m reflecting for International Women’s Day and, whilst frontline workers are (slowly) becoming more diverse, these recent SIA licence statistics, don’t feel like enough progress, especially when compared to other sectors.

Given the recent impact of covid-19 on the role of security officers, we’re seeing more responsibilities in-line with the skills that women have to offer. The public expectations of security officers are very different to a year ago. They’re in the forefront of our everyday now, instead of hiding in the shadows. From maintaining social distancing, enforcing mask wearing and sanitisation, and generally being a reassuring presence during these unsettling times, these are all challenges and changes well suited to the more approachable nature of women.

In my experience, women tend to bring more of a balanced approach to their roles – leading with empathy, compassion, adaptability, multi-tasking, clear communication and generally have stronger soft skills.

Barriers for women in security

Security has a long-held a very masculine stereotype. Many outside the industry may think of security and conjure up images of big burley bouncers, long unsociable hours, night work, dangerous assignments, with unglamorous, badly fitting uniforms – an image it seems the sector is struggling to shake off.
There is so much more to security than traditional manned guarding and the stereotypes it holds. A more concerted effort needs to be made to #ChooseToChallenge these in the spirit of this year’s International Women’s Day theme, because times are changing!

How Expeditious Services is “Choosing to Challenge” change

Expeditious Services has nurtured a culture led by kindness, flexibility, wellbeing and respect of our life outside the workplace. Our head office team is 85pc female, with roles spanning HR, QA, Operations, Sales & Marketing, and our frontline team is above industry average at 12pc. We’ve created a uniquely supportive working environment to attract the best of all genders, largely encouraging women to not only begin a career in security but stay for the long-term. Often, we recruit from outside the industry, bringing in new talent using local recruiters, focusing on personal attributes and team fit over sector-specific knowledge and inspiring with the ‘family-first’ ethos and compassionate mindset. Our business model is built on agility, lending itself well to flexible shifts for childcare, studying and an autonomous work-life balance. We #ChooseToChallenge the stereotypes and constraints the leadership team have long experienced throughout their career.

Expeditious also significantly supports important processes to safeguard the wellbeing and safety of all officers – especially lone female officers operating with more dangerous assignments. Our hourly check calls from account managers make female officers feel safe, seen, heard, and valued in a sector with palpable power imbalance. We #ChooseToChallenge the impersonal labour models and put our employee’s welfare front and centre of our operations.

When it comes to the issue of uniform, we involve both staff and clients to collaboratively choose something which is both right for the site and individuals working there. We #ChooseToChallenge that things can be done differently and be of mutual benefit to all parties.

“Although women are underrepresented compared to our male counterparts within the industry, as an innovative, and progressive security business we see many more females at board and all levels in time to come. There is ample opportunity for all!” – Anton Shuttlewood, CEO, Expeditious Services.

“We deal centrally with females within Expeditious and would support the wider working with women in FM and security. Expeditious have demonstrated their reliability and professional approach and their communication levels with us, are pitched correctly” – Ann Gent, Operations Director, Engie.

The next generation and future of women in security

It’s incredibly encouraging seeing the next generation of female workers rising through our ranks. We have several fantastic women under 30 who came to us new to security and have now fallen in love with its dynamics and rewards. So much so, one of our helpdesk coordinators is completing a security and criminology degree to further her career, and many others are hungry to pursue their own industry qualifications.

Compared to the start of my career, there are more female leaders in the boardroom proving the security sector is a viable option for women. However, there’s a desperate need for more diversity across the entire industry, particularly more women, to prevent it from becoming stale; both yin and yang are needed for balance. There is so much more that we can do as an industry to nurture the next generation of women, showcasing it as an enticing and viable career option.

We could look to education organisations to promote how diverse and how much potential the industry has – particularly the less frontline roles within tech and cyber. Looking to the other side of covid-19, I’d be interested in exploring career days to capture younger people to consider it as a reputable career path, rather than a place-holder to a “proper job”.

As a business we work hard with clients to recruit and retain a diverse workforce. Many of our immediate contacts, clients, and industry associates are also females with shared values, acting as wonderful role models for our team. Collectively, we strive towards making the industry more enticing, championing our own female workers as leading the way in sector, and demonstrating there is space for women in security. A diverse workplace promotes creativity, innovation and dynamism, something desperately needed to secure the future of the industry.

“The number of women in security is increasing and is something we would actively support with our customer and associates” – Ann Gent, Operations Director, Engie

Women in security are a wonderful asset to any protection team. It’s time we #ChooseToChallenge the barriers faced by many and recognise women for the strengths they can bring.

How the security industry can #ChooseToChallenge gender diversity:

– Challenging perceptions of the industry, engaging young people from school age and presenting security as an exciting and secure long-term career.
– Challenging the route into the industry and work with higher education establishments to develop sector-specific qualifications.
– Challenging hyper-masculine stereotypes and championing female role models to leverage change and diversity.

About the author: Julie Hulme is Commercial Director at Expeditious Services, sits on the IWFM North Committee, and is a member of ASIS and the Security Institute. She began her career at Reliance Security for 16 years progressing from Business Development Manager to Key Account Manager and then through to Commercial Director at the retail guarding contractor, Oltec Group.

Visit www.expeditiousservices.com.


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