Britain has seen a female prime minister lead us to victory in an inter continental war. The pay gap between men and women is as small as it has ever been. Angela Merkel sits astride Europe like a colossus (at least according to certain tabloids). But are the sexes really so equal? Does the balance extend to such stereotypically male professions as security? Charlie Kortens sought to find out
Despite constant protestations from the media that the job market is more gender equal than at any other point in history there are still certain professions that are seen to be more suitable for one sex or the other.
Men for example dominate engineering (witness just about every single newspaper article written for the past million years), plumbing, electricianing (yes, that is a word) and many more.
Women meanwhile have niche’s of their own, though admittedly not to the same extent. Nurses are overwhelmingly female. Somewhat surprisingly so are psychiatrists. Oh and beauty therapists.
THEN THERE IS SECURITY
Since the dawn of time the security industry has been male dominated.
Just think of palace guards in every sword and sandals epic or those horsemen guarding trade caravans. (Admittedly this may not be an entirely accurate history, more the musings of a journalist cut of from the internet, but still…).
But to what extent, and how to judge it? Well let’s take a look at some broadly similar professions. In the UK police there are 35,471 female officers out of 129,956 officers in the 43 forces of England and Wales (including central service secondments), representing 27.3 per cent of the total. The proportion of women in the more senior ranks of chief inspector and above was 18.0 per cent compared with 29.7 per cent of women at constable rank.
Then there is the army, which has, somewhat controversially, begun allowing women to fight on the front line. In total, there are 187,060 members of the British armed forces, and 9.4 per cent of them – some 17,620 – are female.
Of those women, 3,760 are officers.
This means that women are represented more equally in both the police and the army than they are in security, where they make up roughly eight per cent of the workforce. Why is this?
Traditionally success in the security business was seen as resting on physical presence and prowess. That meant men. Preferably of the tall and strapping variety.
But, thanks to a blend of different influences, could this be beginning to change?
FMJ spoke to Jane Farrell, CoE development manager at Sodexo Ltd about the wider issues surrounding women’s role in the industry.
Farrell, is responsible for security training and compliance across the UK and Ireland and spearheads the Sodexo Women in Security Group. As part of Secure, Sodexo’s on-site security service, Farrell has worked to increase the percentage of female security officers in the organisation from nine per cent to 14 per cent over the last three years.
In addition to all this she scooped the Women in Security Industry Award at the International Fire and Security Exhibition Conference (IFSEC) event held in Birmingham last May.
Farrell, who has worked for Sodexo for over 30 years, agrees that even now there is a perception that security is a profession for men. “I’ve always found that some women have a fear about a career in security as it’s seen as a male-dominated industry. What we’ve tried to do is take that fear away and open up more opportunities for women.”