Breaking Barriers: The Need for More Women in Security

Last Updated: May 15, 2024

In the realm of security, a field pivotal to the safety and stability of our global landscape, there exists a stark gender disparity that cannot be overlooked. Despite the critical nature of roles spanning cybersecurity, national security, and private security, women remain significantly underrepresented, highlighting a pressing need for change. With its far-reaching implications on national and international levels, the security sector demands a workforce that mirrors the diversity and complexity of the world it aims to protect. By breaking down the barriers that deter women from entering and thriving in the security sector, we can enhance the field's diversity and its overall capability to respond to contemporary security challenges.

Gender Diversity in Security

Statistics show that women occupy less than a quarter of positions in the security sector. This imbalance is deeply rooted in historical and cultural contexts—traditionally, security fields have been male-dominated, wrongly attributing physical strength and technological knowledge solely to men. This can discourage women from pursuing careers in security and hinder their acceptance and progression within the industry. As we navigate through an era where security challenges are increasingly complex and multifaceted, the need for diverse perspectives and inclusive strategies has never been more critical, highlighting the urgency of bridging the gender gap in security.

Challenges Faced by Women in Security

Women venturing into the security sector often encounter barriers that can impede their progress and deter their continued participation. These challenges significantly affect the professional journeys of women in security roles.

Societal and Organizational Barriers

Persistent stereotypes about gender roles continue to influence perceptions about suitability for security-related careers. Such stereotypes are not just external judgments; they infiltrate organizational cultures, shaping attitudes and behaviours within the workplace.

Women in security often have to navigate environments where gender biases cloud expectations and assessments of their capabilities. The security sector is also notorious for its limited advancement opportunities for women, with leadership roles often seeming out of reach due to both overt and subtle forms of discrimination.

Workplace Culture

The culture within security organizations plays a crucial role in determining women’s retention and job satisfaction. A workplace that harbours a “boys’ club” mentality or fails to address microaggressions can make women feel isolated and undervalued. Such an environment affects job satisfaction and can discourage long-term commitment to the field, leading to a higher turnover rate among women.

Work-Life Balance

Security roles often demand irregular hours and high stress, which can significantly challenge achieving a healthy work-life balance. For women, who in many societies still bear the brunt of domestic responsibilities, these demands can be particularly daunting. The lack of flexibility in certain jobs within the security sector can disproportionately disadvantage women, forcing them to make tough choices between career progression and personal or family life. This imbalance raises questions about the sustainability of traditional security job structures in accommodating and supporting the workforce’s diverse needs.

Benefits of Increasing Women’s Participation in Security

Including more women in security roles is more than just a matter of equality; it’s strategically advantageous and enhances the sector’s effectiveness, innovation, and problem-solving capabilities. This principle is particularly relevant in the security sector, where threats constantly evolve, and innovative approaches are crucial for success.

Enhanced Problem-Solving and Unique Perspectives

Teams that incorporate diverse perspectives are better equipped to approach challenges from multiple angles, leading to more comprehensive and effective solutions. Women can offer unique insights based on their experiences and backgrounds, which can significantly enrich the security sector’s approach to addressing threats.

For example, women’s roles in communities and their experiences with social networks can offer valuable perspectives. In addition, skills traditionally undervalued in security contexts, such as empathy and communication, can be pivotal in crisis negotiation, intelligence gathering, and building trust in communities.

Encouraging More Women to Join the Security Sector

To bridge the gender gap in the security sector, concerted efforts must be made to encourage more women to pursue careers in this field. This involves implementing targeted strategies to refine recruitment and hiring practices, ensure retention and advancement, and advocate for policy and cultural change. These measures can create an environment that attracts, supports, and retains women in security roles.

Recruitment and Hiring Practices

Organizations within the security sector can adopt more inclusive recruitment and hiring practices to attract a wider pool of female candidates. This includes crafting job descriptions that emphasize skills and qualities beyond traditional security backgrounds, actively promoting job openings in platforms frequented by women, and ensuring gender diversity in recruitment panels.

Employers should also consider implementing blind application processes to minimize unconscious biases and highlight the importance of diversity in their organizational values.

Retention and Advancement

To retain women in the security sector, creating an environment where they feel valued and see clear pathways for advancement is crucial. This can be achieved through:

  • Mentorship programs that pair women with experienced professionals for guidance and support.
  • Leadership training specifically designed to address the unique challenges women face in the field.
  • Networking opportunities to build connections and foster a sense of community.

Organizations should also regularly review wage gaps, promotion rates, and employee job satisfaction to identify and address any disparities.

Policy and Cultural Change

Encouraging more women to join the security sector requires support at the policy level, both within organizations and through government legislation. Policies that promote gender diversity, such as flexible working arrangements, parental leave, and anti-discrimination measures, can make the security sector more appealing to women.

Additionally, cultural change initiatives that challenge stereotypes and promote a more inclusive view of security work are essential. This could involve a leadership commitment to diversity goals, awareness training to combat unconscious bias, and highlighting the achievements of women in the sector to serve as role models for future generations.

Actionable Steps

Individuals, employers, and policymakers must take concerted actions to significantly enhance women’s participation in the security sector. Each group can contribute uniquely to creating an inclusive environment that welcomes women and supports their growth and advancement.

  • Individuals can act as allies by acknowledging and challenging gender bias in the workplace, supporting female colleagues, and advocating for their advancement. Offering mentorship and guidance can also help women find opportunities within the security sector.
  • Employers can create equitable recruitment and hiring practices, establish clear pathways for advancement, and foster a supportive workplace culture.
  • Policymakers can advocate for and enact legislation that promotes gender equality within the security sector.

We encourage all readers to take proactive steps in their spheres of influence to support and advocate for women in security. Whether you’re mentoring a young professional, revising your organization’s recruitment practices, or advocating for policy changes, your actions contribute to a more inclusive and effective security sector.

At Security Guards Only, we work towards a security sector that values diversity and thrives because of it. If you’re ready to start your new career or find new opportunities, browse our job boards today.

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Jeff Ketelaars
Jeff Ketelaars
Jeff Ketelaars is a seasoned security expert with over 35 years in the industry. He founded two security agencies and established Security Conscious in 1990, a firm that offers high-quality training to security professionals. As a skillful negotiator, Ketelaars has secured contracts for Canada's largest security guard union, advocating for fair treatment and compensation for security personnel.

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