Many nations have international obligations to ensure equal rights and opportunities for both women and men working in the security field.
For example, Resolution 1325, On Women, Peace and Security, adopted by the United Nations Security Council in 2000, has been an effective tool reformatting the issues of women’s rights in this area.
However, despite these international and national programs, the gender balance in many countries leaves much to be desired. We interviewed female security industry representatives from America, the European Union and Ukraine to compare the gender inequality issues, cultural and traditional stereotypes, and restrictions in women’s professional development exist in their countries.
The ASIS Women in Security Community aims to provide support and assistance to women in the security field, as well as inspire those interested in entering the profession. While the group’s benefits and programs are tailored for women, all members who are dedicated to the support of women in the security industry are encouraged to participate.
- Courtney Adante (New York, USA)
- Tatyana Andrianova (Ukraine)
- Alana Forrest (California, USA)
- Lynn de Vries, CPP, PCI (Netherlands)
What area of security do you work in?
CA: I am President of a security advisory division of my company. We do security consulting for C-Suite clients in the areas of physical, cyber and health security as well as investigations and background diligence.
TA: I am a lawyer by profession, and I practice corporate security, namely, I supervise and manage information, legal, administrative and personnel security of the large Ukrainian holding “Octava Capital”, which includes over a dozen businesses in different industries – from plant nurseries to cyber security. And also, for a long time, I have been an active member of the professional communities in the field of security- a Board Member of the Association of Corporate Security Professionals of Ukraine and the Ukraine Chapter of ASIS.
AF: I recently landed a fantastic role as Director, Global Safety and Security for a financial services platform. I’ve been in the high tech and entertainment industries and worked for a security provider firm, all based in California.
LdV: I work as consultant and trainer in security and privacy.
What are the issues of gender inequality in security sphere relevant to your country?
CA: I am in the US, and the only real issues are the fact that we just do not have enough women in the security profession and not enough women-owned security businesses.
TA: Until recently, the perception of a representative of corporate security in our country has been limited to the dimension of physical security (protection of facilities, safety of material values, etc.). It’s implied that when it comes to physical security, this profession is perceived as “not female” due to physiological features. When the meaning of corporate security expanded its functionality (personnel, legal, information security), the attitude towards the profile of a security representative began to change with the transformation of the meaning (at the moment, the perception is in its transitional period).
AF: In the US, given my rather short stint so far (9 years) in private sector security (this is a second career), what I see is not far from the challenges in law enforcement. There are a lot of males dominating the industry, especially in higher level roles, CSO, CISO, VP’s and Sr. Directors. That’s one of the main reasons it’s important to have formal or informal mentor programs and initiatives (such as women in security and young professionals) that promote and expand the ability for women and underrepresented minorities to not only succeed in the industry but promote as well.
LdV: The traditional security management market is still very much male (“old boys”) dominated. There is a trend of young (female) professionals choosing consciously to follow a study in security management. Unfortunately, they often encounter difficulty to enter the security market once they have completed the study and this leads to them leaving the market before they have even had a chance to properly start. The information security and privacy side, on the other hand, is much more diverse.
Do there exist any cultural or traditional stereotypes about the security sector being not suitable for women? Have you personally encountered manifestations of such stereotypes (examples)?
CA: I think in the US, people think of security and they automatically think of military, war, intelligence, submarines, guns, infantry, troops, guards, active service in really scary parts of the world – and may assume that women wouldn’t have had that expertise or would WANT to play in that space. I’ve had a few of my own situations where I’ve been in meetings with men either selling our services or providing counsel in the security space and the men often defer to the men.
TA: I cannot deny the existence of stereotypes regarding “female” and “non-female” professions in our country, especially in such a historically “male industry” as the security sector. But, fortunately, we can observe a rapid departure from outdated views in society. This happens both as a result of matter-of-course evolution, when everything unnecessary and old fades out, and through a number of state and public measures designed to reduce gender inequality in our country.
AF: I think there is still a traditional stereotype about security in general. Many top level security teams and leaders I know are still up against what value the team brings to an organization.Then layer in women in the industry and it makes it even more difficult for us as women to succeed. While security may not be seen as inherently more dangerous than law enforcement, there is still potential for danger, injury and death. Women are still stereotyped that they can’t do the job because of the physical nature of it. But we women all know we work differently – we use verbal skills to de-escalate situations and use more calming, rational thought processes in dealing with difficult situations. I’ve faced stereotypes all my life, but it certainly never stopped me for achieving my goals and dreams.
LdV: The security sector is indeed still viewed as a sector mainly suitable for men. A general view – confirmed when you google pictures on the term “security guard”, is still the tough male type. In reality, this is not the case anymore – especially with hospitality being integrated into the traditional security functions at many organizations where the soft skills are becoming more and more important. And this is also the case in the security management functions. The challenge is changing this obsolete view and demonstrate that the sector is much more diverse – and needs to become even more diverse. An example where I have encountered this is when recruiting for new employees: often no female candidates even apply. Therefore, it is important to be clear on diversity in recruitment campaigns. And by this I do not mean that it should lead to exclusion of any gender, but should provide for equal opportunities. And obviously leading to the best man or woman for the job.
What is the percentage of women in your country’s army and law-enforcement authorities?
CA: Women in law enforcement in the US make up roughly 13% and for the army, 14% are enlisted and 16% officers.
TA: Until recently, the Ukrainian army was traditionally one of the most conservative in terms of women on service, and was completely not ready for this. However, the war in the East made its own adjustments, and in recent years, there has been fairly positive dynamics of growth of a share of women on service in the Ukrainian army and police. According to statistics for 2020, women make 12% of the total number of military personnel serving in the Ukrainian army, and about 22% of the police personnel.
The number of women who voluntarily join the Armed Forces is growing every year in Ukraine. They are not afraid of physical activity and exercise, daily duties and tours of hotspots. But the problem of sexual harassment in the army still remains topical, and we deeply hope that an active fight against and publicity of such cases will help reducing them to nothing in the near future.
LdV: In the army only 10% are female and in the police the number is 34%. The army is currently putting a lot of effort into campaigns to attract more women and to break the stereotype idea of the army being only for males. In the private security branch, about 25% of employees
Are there any restrictions for women to occupy any security positions (official or unofficial)?
CA: The answers are yes and yes. For the military, it is changing.
TA: Personally, I do not feel constraints in my professional realization in the business sector, as well as in public activities in the field of security. But in reality, gender equality looks like this: while 70% of women work in education sphere, there are practically no women in the top management of the state. Most of the leadership posts are held by men, and there is not a single female general.
AF: I haven’t seen official restrictions for women. That would be illegal, but the unofficial restrictions start with where and how you recruit for a position, how you set up the resume sorting process (are there built in biases against women and URM’s) and who you bring forward for interviews. This is a whole other topic to take a deep dive in.
LdV: It really depends on the sector – for instance when guarding in a male prison, it is logical to have a male guard and vice versa. Not only because of security aspects, but also to avoid embarrassing situations. I think these types of restrictions – call it functional discrimination – is needed. Generally, most positions are open to both male and female candidates.
Is there a difference in salaries of men and women working in this industry?
CA: In the security industry this is a very subjective answer as it all depends on the company and the role.
TA: Salaries in both the private and public sectors depend on the level of official post, and not on gender, but, as a rule, high posts are held generally by men. Unfortunately, despite the high level of education and accomplishments of Ukrainian women, they are underrepresented at the highest levels of the world of work, in public life and politics. I would like to see that the level of the post held and the salary in the business sector would depend solely on the professional qualities and ambitions of a specialist.
AF: Yes. It’s hard to find a lot of data, but the US Labor Statistics called out women security guards and gaming surveillance specifically in a 2020 report as making approximately $100 a week less than men. That same document, which looked at total, full-time wage and salary workers across hundreds of occupations showed women making $191 less a week than men. This pay gap is not new, but the key question is what is the industry (and companies in general) doing to make it right?
LdV: The salaries for security guards are generally regulated by collective labor agreements, so there is no distinction between men and women. Sadly enough, the non-regulated salaries show differences with males typically earning more than their female counterparts. The difference seems to grow as the seniority of a function increases.
In what situations have you faced gender discrimination in your professional activities and what were your responses?
CA: The best thing I ever did here was point it out to my male colleagues when it happened with clients – they were then on the lookout for it in future meetings with clients – and they helped correct the bad behavior by continually bringing me back in the conversation or saying “Courtney will have to answer that”. It was amazing – and they were shocked how much they saw it after I pointed it out.
TA: I have been a speaker on a course for corporate security specialists for a long time, and every time I come to speak in front of a new audience, there is an emotion of distrust in the faces, questions and reactions of the audience, as what useful a woman can teach in this area. During the course, when the audience is involved, we analyze practical cases, get into discussions, and their attitude changes in a noticeable way.
AF: Unfortunately, the amount of situations I’ve faced gender discrimination is too many to report out here. My response, and how I coach other women has been to first and foremost, keep your head down and keep learning and growing so you are competent in your role, be a lifelong learner, develop and maintain relationships in your industry, pick your battles, find mentors and champions (male and female) to help you along the way, grow your emotional intelligence and be the rational voice in the room.
LdV: To be honest, I have not faced gender discrimination myself, but I have had some inappropriate comments made by male colleagues. In those cases, I have always tried to keep my cool and either ignore the comment or give a witty response. I refused to give them the satisfaction of seeing me getting angry or upset, however difficult it might be.
If I would have been discriminated against, for instance during a job interview, I think I would have asked for explanation. But then again, even if I was offered the job, I would not want to work for a company that discriminates based on gender (or any other factor).
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