Tomorrow’s Security Teams Need a Female Talent Pipeline

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I’ve worked in various roles within law enforcement and security, from positions in the U.S. Secret Service to campus public safety at a large urban university, to private sector security consulting.  And while there have been significant advances in the field of security generally, there are still too few women, in professional roles, in both law enforcement and security.

As just one example, it wasn’t until April 2021 – 156 years after the Secret Service was first created – that the number of female agents in a graduating new agent class outnumbered male agents.  For 156 years, every single class of new agents had more men than women.  Throughout the U.S., we see gender disparities in federal, state, and local law enforcement, as well as in private sector security, when compared to the non-security and non-law enforcement workforces in the U.S. 

There are a number of reasons why women may be less inclined than men to gravitate toward a career in law enforcement or security.  Careers in security and law enforcement aren’t marketed to women and girls in the way they are to men. Some women may actively avoid law enforcement careers because they see it as a male-dominated profession. When women do enter the profession, the job can put a strain on the already-demanding expectations that exist for women in their family lives. 

So how do we encourage more women and girls to join our ranks in the fields of law enforcement and security?  I got a chance to ask this question of several women in these fields as part of Women Who Protect, a monthly podcast series that airs as part of the Ontic Protective Intelligence Podcast.  Here are some of the takeaways from those discussions:

Directly Encouraging Women You Know 

The first suggestion for increasing the number of women in security and law enforcement is through direct and repeated encouragement.  In my conversation with Mónica Duperon Rodriguez, for example, she explained that had not set out for a career in law enforcement. A former police officer, hostage negotiator, Rodriguez had initially worked as a facilities manager at a recreation center.  In that role, she had developed a working relationship with several police officers who would spend time at the center as part of their patrol work.  They started to encourage her to apply to join their police department, as their department was looking to hire more women.  

After several attempts to get her to apply, an officer finally walked in with an application and an interesting suggestion: why not try out policing with some volunteer work in the department’s reserve unit?  By serving in the reserve unit, Rodriguez got to go through training and spend time getting to know the department and the roles and responsibilities of police officers before fully committing to a career in law enforcement.  And once she was there, she discovered it was work that she loved to do.  Having retired from policing, she has continued a career in security and now serves as an organized retail crime investigator in the private sector.

Like Monica Duperon Rodriguez, many of the women I’ve spoken with – who have had full careers in security or law enforcement – didn’t start out in those fields and hadn’t thought about going into them – until someone encouraged them to do so.  

Seek Out Women in Other Fields

Another suggestion for increasing the number of women in security and in law enforcement comes from Women Who Protect guest Kate Bright, who runs a premier executive protection firm in the U.K.  Bright says that many of her female high-profile and high-net worth clients have specifically requested female protection agents.  Faced with a high demand to fill, Bright actively recruits female protection agents from women’s professional sports teams. She started recruiting from women’s professional sports teams after recognizing that professional female athletes are accustomed to rigorous training and to working together as a team, characteristics that she has found vital to creating and staffing successful close protection teams  We can take a page from Bright’s book and build a pipeline of female talent in security and law enforcement by seeking women who may be working in non-security fields but possess the professional characteristics needed for the job.  

Advertise the Wide Array of Career Opportunities and Job Flexibility

One final suggestion for increasing the involvement of women in security and law enforcement is to explicitly market and broadcast the wide variety of jobs and careers that are available in those fields. There is a common misperception that applicants need a certain level of physical fitness and brute strength to work in law enforcement.  But there are many jobs and careers within law enforcement that do not entail fitness requirements. The same is true for jobs and careers within security.  

Another common misperception that women have to choose career over family if they want to work in security of law enforcement.  But now more than ever, jobs in security and in law enforcement allow for much more schedule flexibility – and location flexibility – than they previously could.  Another guest on Women Who Protect, Sandy Perez, told me she got into law enforcement because she needed a job with a flexible schedule that she could do while attending college.  An analyst position with a local police department had sufficient schedule flexibility to allow her to complete her degree – and at the same time she developed a skill and love of intelligence analysis, and now does the same work for Alcon. Even federal law enforcement agencies like the Secret Service have evolved to include family-friendly practices such as child care subsidies, leave sharing, and job sharing.

At a time when the talent needed to staff law enforcement agencies as well as security departments in the private sector is in short supply, it’s imperative for all of us in security and law enforcement to help encourage more women to join our ranks.  Direct encouragement, recruiting from other fields, and marketing efforts that correct common misperceptions highlight job flexibility can help build a female talent pipeline for now and for years to come.

To hear more from Dr. Randazzo and other women in security, check out the Women Who Protect series on the Protective Intelligence Podcast.