If you haven’t heard yet, the theme of this year’s International Women’s Day is “breaking the bias.” So, I wanted to take a few minutes to share my thoughts on this year’s theme as well as my thoughts on women in the security industry more generally.
I’ve been in the security industry for 27 years, first with the U.S. Secret Service where I worked my way up from unpaid intern to Chief Research Psychologist, then starting my own security firm, SIGMA Threat Management, specializing in threat assessment and threat management, and now as Executive Director for Ontic’s Center of Excellence, providing training, consulting, and thought leadership in threat assessment and protective intelligence.
Within federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies, and in corporate security departments and private security firms, we often see more men than women – sometimes a LOT more men than women. When I was part of the Secret Service, 80% of the agents were male, and only 20% female. I believe the ratio has gotten better over the past decade, with more women joining the agency – but there is still room for improvement.
One way we can #BreakTheBias is simply by encouraging more women to pursue careers in security and law enforcement. Here are three things that we, as women in security, can do:
- Share your story about how we got into security or law enforcement in the first place. I don’t know about you, but growing up I had never considered security or law enforcement as a career path. The only real model I had was Charlie’s Angels (the TV series). They were billed as women who made it through the police academy but were assigned boring desk jobs and so they left. Sharing our security “origin stories” through conversations with young women we know, or posted on social media, etc. can help inspire girls and young women to consider doing the same.
- Offer to do a career talk at your high school or college, to help educate young women and men about careers in security. Talk about the full range of positions that exist beyond special agent or officer. I was well past college before I even thought about a possible career at the Secret Service and it was because of encouragement from a woman I met at a professional conference, who already worked at the Secret Service and encouraged me to apply.
- Look for and share vacancy announcements about positions in security far and wide. Whether it be on your social media channels, with your alma maters, or with the daughters of your friends.
Throughout my security career I have found it immensely helpful – and just plain fun – to have other women in the field that I could ask questions, get tips from, joke with, have as a running partner, grab a cocktail with, etc. I believe the field of security has benefitted immeasurably from having more women across a range of positions and I look forward to seeing our numbers continue to grow.
Speaking of the subject, at the end of this month, stay tuned for the launch of Ontic’s Women in Global Security podcast series as part of the Ontic Center for Protective Intelligence Podcast. I’ll be sitting down with women across a range of identities, professions and expertise to talk about their journeys as fearless women in our industry. Interested in joining? Be sure to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.