Ninety percent or more of the attendees at our security executive seminars are men. And those women who attend our training are usually security executives working at the highest levels in their respective company or agency, or they play an active role in government or academia and are leaders in their field. They come to security from law enforcement, a security or intelligence agency or in some cases from corporate operations, contracting or IT.
The topic of women in security came to mind during a market analysis of our client base demographics. Why are women this industry, from security officer to CSO, so under-represented? There are even fewer women in security jobs in Asia and South America. In Israel, security jobs are tactical positions and require combat experience, which automatically eliminates many women from applying. A quick search on LinkedIn for ‘Director of Security’ displays less than 5% women in this role.
I recently spoke with a female Director of Security of a preeminent real estate firm here in Southern California. She came from public service at the FBI into the private security sector in a horizontal move. In meetings and conferences at her responsibility level, there are only a handful of women and their numbers are generally low in operational leadership. She believes that her personal success both at her job and in attaining it has to do with being highly competitive and an avid problem solver. In her view, women – in general – do look at problems differently than do men.
Many women are in circumstances (think having to juggle domestic chores with a ‘real’ job, managing kids and households) where they are obliged to multitask. They have to think strategically, plan carefully, consider all options. And as for the reputation some moms have for ferociously protecting their kids (think Mama Bear, Lioness), it seems women would be a natural in some security positions. These groups of skills and inclinations would also prove useful in the operational arena, yet none of this has translated to women entering security in large numbers.
Another potential reason for low numbers of women in security is the perception that the job requirements are physical more than cognitive. Physical fitness is an important criteria of a good security officer but that doesn’t mean one needs to be a hulk. While it makes sense that most bodyguards or bouncers are big guys, the ability to think on one’s feet trumps brawn. This is true in security from the post officer up to the board room.
The FBI currently has 20% women in its ranks; law enforcement across the U.S. has about 15% women. Yet law enforcement studies have shown that policewomen do a better job of defusing tense situations, are less likely to use excessive force and are more likely to promote community trust building. One wonders if women are more likely to see themselves as potential targets of violence versus as the person who wants a job fighting violence and crime. Do lower testosterone levels mean women have less to prove? Whatever the reasons, having more women involved in safety and security could be a positive shift.