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IWD2021: How the security industry can #ChooseToChallenge inequality and bias

Typically, when we think ‘bodyguard’, our instant reaction is to picture the stereotype – an intimidating male, standing guard outside an official building or shoving paparazzi out of the path of a celebrity.

In today’s debate driven society, the discussion around the natural qualities that women and men possess, and indeed the differences between them, continues.

It can be argued, rightly or wrongly, that men are, by default, inherently stronger than women and therefore are naturally more suitable for roles that involve physical conflict. But being a successful professional within the security industry requires far more than just brute force.

Security organisations and full-service ones that take a holistic approach to their client offering – such as Valorous Group – operating beyond providing close protection services, are commercial businesses just like any other and, therefore, require far more than just an athletic, stocky operative to succeed.

The business case for Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) is stronger than ever. It is, by now, well documented that the most diverse organisations are more likely to outperform their less diverse peers when it comes to profitability.

A recent study by McKinsey showed that companies with more than 30 percent female executives were more likely to outperform companies where this percentage ranged from 10 to 30, and in turn these companies were more likely to outperform those with even fewer women executives, or none at all.

Moreover, the study found that the greater the representation, the higher the likelihood of outperformance. Companies with more than 30 percent women executives were more likely to outperform companies where this percentage ranged from 10 to 30, and in turn these companies were more likely to outperform those with even fewer women executives, or none at all.

With that in mind, forward-thinking, market leaders with long term success driving their strategy should consider the business values that arise from harnessing the attributes, opinions and expertise of a diverse and inclusive workforce.

Unpacking the stereotype

There is still a common consensus that the security industry is a male-owned sector with roles and opportunities perceived as incompatible with or even unappealing, to women. But why does this remain the case, and is it an accurate assumption?

Since the occurrence of 9/11, the view of what good security looks like has changed. Increased counter terror measures have powered innovation levels, leading to a small glimmer of change in perception around the value that a more diverse skillset can bring to security services.

But whilst most can agree on the need to eradicate misconceptions surrounding the industry, and to educate both those within the profession and young women deciding on their careers, on the prospects that are there behind the scenes – real transformation is yet to come.

In order to create gender diversity that benefits all, there needs to be a greater awareness of the options a career in security can offer at an educational level. This will be a significant forward step towards ensuring that the next generation of security professionals is not only diverse but better informed. If we can succeed in doing this, perhaps these young sparks will be the generation to truly spark purposeful change and drive D&I in what is, in some respects, an archaic profession.

Unconscious bias

Unconscious bias stems from the fact that we are all human. It is an innate part of us. Every one of us grew up with certain norms that have, over time, changed along with ways of thinking that were once accepted. When it comes to business and challenging those biases, no amount of policy, legislation or simple learning and development courses on LinkedIn can alter that  – only a new way of thinking.

Whilst this might sound like a difficult thing to approach, when stripped down, it is quite simple. The first step towards dealing with it is to accept and address that it is something we all have.

Next comes the creation and communication of the right culture. This can include many initiatives but even the simple creation of a network of female allies is heading in the right direction. These are people who have had training to understand unconscious bias or who, at the very least, recognise the significance of D&I.

#ChoosingToChallenge within the security profession

The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is Choose To Challenge, and after a tumultuous 2020 that saw everything we knew turned upside down and challenged in order to create a new way forward, there has been no better time for those in the security profession to challenge themselves and their peers in order to remove flawed stereotypes, create a better public perception of those working within this fascinating sector and, ultimately, propel positive and long lasting change.

It may not be an easy change to make, particularly in a profession that is often regimented in its ways, but it is a necessary one.

Irrespective of gender, a conscientious and high-quality security operative requires situational awareness, organisational skills, a sound understanding of etiquette and competency in making intelligent decisions – not just a good right hook and menacing features.

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