Industry favors women in the workplace
YARMOUTH, Maine—Readers responded positively when Security Systems News asked in its latest News Poll about women in the security industry. Many respondents have women in their company in executive roles, including some who are mentoring other females, and a vast majority said gender diversity is helpful for business.
Rhianna Daniels Hile, director of the Women’s Security Council, said the results to the poll are “very encouraging.”
A majority of respondents, 70 percent, said that their companies have women on staff, including in executive management. An additional 22 percent said they have female staff, but not on the executive level.
Hile said that women in leadership create a positive environment for other women. “There are many companies in the market that are very progressive and even within their own internal organizations, create mentoring groups for female professionals” she said.
One reader shared a similar comment: “I am a woman in management, so I actively look for women to mentor and develop for leadership.”
Diversity is good for business according to 89 percent. Seven percent said that diversity isn’t important for their business, and 4 percent didn’t know.
Despite these numbers, some readers shared negative experiences. “Security mainly still has the ‘good ole boys club’ feel to it. Women may be tolerated, but [they’re] not part of it,” said one reader. This respondent isn’t alone; two other readers called the security industry a “boy’s club.” One said that it “probably has a lot to do with the lack of woman in the industry as sadly the stereotype still exists.”
Only 8 percent reported no women at their company. A few respondents in this group also reported active efforts to recruit women.
“If a company is dedicated to growing diversity within their organization … it takes a significant initiative,” Hile said. “If you really want to actively recruit women, when you’re in a male-dominated environment, that’s going to be a hard sell. You have to take a look at your corporate culture.”
“I still notice a bias at the consumer level almost daily,” said Nicole Swartwout, partner and co-owner of CallTeks Security. “When a customer approaches us [at a trade show], 9 times out of 10, they direct their attention to my male counterpart … until they realize I have just as much knowledge and find I am the one answering the questions.”
This is not an uncommon experience, according to responses. “At a recent trade show I asked questions to vendors and they proceeded to only look at and answer my co-worker (who is a man),” said another.
Are security companies actively recruiting women? Fifty-five percent said that they are, with 33 percent saying “not actively.” Twelve percent weren’t sure.
“The one thing that we’re not seeing [much] growth in is women in that CTO [or] engineering-technology role,” Hile said.
Multiple responses said that gender doesn’t factor into hiring decisions. “Gender doesn't matter. We hire based on qualifications, gender is irrelevant,” a respondent said.
“We hire the most qualified person, or who we feel has the most potential, many of which are women,” said Gust Askounis, president of Security Solutions Inc.
“I think the most qualified individual should hold the positions not decided by gender, and I am a woman,” said another reader.
A trend among respondents was the claim that men and women do better in different roles.
“Women in management can be an asset in helping to understand and interpret requests and statements made about and by women,” one respondent wrote.
“We have found that women are great organizers and typically tend to details very well, at all levels. Men tend to excel at negotiations and closing the deal. Both skills are crucial to the success of the company,” said one reader.
“I believe, to some degree, that most homeowners seem to have more confidence in the female sales reps. I have, over the years, seen ‘break in’ clients sometimes request a female sales person for security concerns. In my opinion, hiring females is a smart business strategy as it allows more doors to open,” Yvonne Hines, GM of Bulldog Security’s south division.
“Women provide a fresh perspective which helps to challenge traditional thinking from a single point of view,” said another respondent.
“I own a recruiting firm with a total focus on positions for systems integrators. Most of my clients see the strengths of female employees as a strong and differentiating asset. In my firm, I have found that female recruiters bring a different approach to the work than men, all very positive,” said Rebecca Bayne, president of Bayne Consulting & Search.
A lower percentage of women in the industry isn’t necessarily due to an industry-wide mentality, according to one reader. “I do not see many younger women coming into the industry, however I don't think that is because we are picking men over women in these roles, but rather the pool of women interested in the security industry is very small.”
One response implied that the prevalence of women in security isn’t an issue, “This is 2015, not 1915.”
The poll did reveal differing opinions, though. “The women I have seen in security are in sales positions at super regionals and sell mainly by wearing short skirts and low-cut blouses. This is a man’s world and women need to stay home and raise children,” said an anonymous response.
Diversity in areas other than gender is a current issue as well, according to responses. One reader sees a lack of African-Americans in the industry.
Swartwout mentioned generational diversity. “I am proud to also be a recognized industry minority being both a female and from the ‘millennial’ generation. I must say that even being a minority and struggling at times managing in a male dominated industry, the majority of the time I feel nothing but support from my partners, colleagues, and industry peers.”