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Diversity and Inclusion in Security

When the Pride Parade was going on in Ontario earlier this summer, my children were listening to the radio and asked why some people were celebrating, and why others were protesting. My son’s comment was, “we live in Canada; it is our right to be whom we want to be, as good citizens”. He still seemed puzzled; even after I explained the challenges faced by minority groups, and the inequalities that we unfortunately still have in our society. In his young mind, he could not believe that this happens right here in Toronto, in a country he believed was without prejudice. The only way I could help him understand was to relate this situation to bullying, and how people must come together to shift the power that creates opportunities for bullying and inequity.sdf

This conversation caused me to reflect on inequalities around me, and my role in speaking up for diversity and inclusiveness. I have been in the security industry since 2002, where some elements of diversity are so advanced compared to many other industries. However, women in the security industry continue to be underrepresented. Statistics show that women just don’t apply for security positions.

The good news is that our customers are asking the right questions. I have had many requests for proposals that have asked for responses to diversity, female ownership, and disability and Aboriginal involvement. Unfortunately, it is not enough. I am reminded of that as I look around after 14 years in the industry, and see that women are still vastly underrepresented in this industry.

Although there is no easy answer, we now have the momentum of the voices around us, and the inspiration from events like the Pride Parade. I am committed to doing my part to keep this subject on the table, and to support diversity in our industry.

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Diversity in the Guarding Industry

There are several definitions describing diversity, but it generally means understanding that each individual is unique, and recognizing individual differences. These can be along the dimensions of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, age, physical abilities, religious beliefs, political beliefs, or other ideologies.

Within the security industry, the most prevalent discussions are around the small percentage of women working as security professionals and guards. There are variances by country, but generally, the percentage of security licence holders is somewhere between 8-20%. People with physical disabilities are hardly represented (1-2%) despite the fact that many roles do not require physical intervention. Research on gender, ethnic minorities, and disabilities showed that the private security industry also had a lower percentage when compared to industries such as passenger transport, facility management and policing.

It may be important for the industry to address its lack of diversity and equality. There is a consensus that a greater commitment to equality and diversity in the private security industry would improve industry perceptions. However creating this more equal and diverse industry would be challenging. Overcoming the negative perception of the industry is a significant task. Securing a commitment to equality and diversity from buyers of security services, who shape demand, can also be an obstacle. Another challenge is the lack of professionalism and career progression, which means certain minority groups are not attracted to working within the industry.

A way to improve the situation is through highlighting career possibilities as a way to attract more diverse applicants. Sharing positive experiences and case studies can also be important.

To change the situation for women in the industry, it is important that employers integrate gender into all staff training and all company policies and codes of conduct that would logically address gender equality and the benefits of diversity. Of course, issues of sexual harassment, violence, internal discrimination and other human rights violations also need to be addressed directly. When possible, promoting qualified women into positions of authority within the company would send a powerful message about competence and acceptance.

Prosegur, the third largest security company in the world, is led by a woman; Helena Revoredo. Still the track record of her company on gender balance leaves a lot to be desired. We need employers, such as Ms. Revoredo, to take decisive steps to cultivate a culture of gender inclusion.

There already is a large diversity when it comes to ethnicity in the guard force. Employees from different backgrounds, many of them immigrants have joined guarding companies. In order to ensure a proper alignment and integration within the company culture, a thorough understanding is key. More and more companies are implementing diversity training for their employees, management and field staff. This is beneficial from the perspective of understanding one another within the workforce, but equally important when dealing with diverse customers at large.

Posted in: Protective Services and Investigations

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