For this latest study, we talked to Britain’s female security workers to find out what specific challenges they face, as well as get their opinions on how things might be improved upon in the industry overall.

As of 2021’s second quarter, women made up roughly 11% of the UK’s security workforce. The fact that there are 378,543 SIA-licensed security workers currently in operation in the UK means that some 41,000 of the UK’s security workers are female.

Being a woman who works in security brings with it a unique set of challenges. There is, for example, the notion that a man, by virtue of being perhaps stronger and more physically imposing, is somehow better equipped to protect people from violent or aggressive situations.

Within this idea exists an inference that women will not present as much of a physical deterrent as men – and are therefore not as able to do the job.

This sits atop other sexist attitudes that many people have towards women who work in any industry at all. The typical argument might go something along the lines of, ‘men and women are just better suited for different jobs’. When such an argument is challenged, of course, it inevitably leaves women with jobs related to the traditional female roles in society and thereby reinforces gender norms at the expense of greater integration and progress.

Attitudes like these hold sway in part because the industry is so heavily male-dominated and partly because they aren’t being regularly challenged. However, if more women were to join the security industry, a lot of perceived barriers and unhealthy perspectives would be brought crashing down, as has happened in every male-dominated industry that has offered women more opportunities and a greater degree of involvement.

Benefits of Female Security Staff

The fact is that a female security operative can be every bit as effective as her male counterpart – and that an intergender security team working the doors is generally more efficient and able to perform its core functions than a group consisting entirely of males.

Male operatives searching female patrons, to cite just one example, can be a cause for discomfort on the part of the patrons, while the presence of a female DS will possibly increase the number of females wishing to patronise the venue/establishment.

For a more specific example, suppose that a female shoplifter is hiding in the ladies’ fitting rooms or toilets. A male security operative can venture into this situation, but his doing so may cause consternation among the other customers. If both male and female security staff are present, however, shoplifters in such situations will have nowhere to hide. 

Female security workers are also sometimes more adept at dealing with aggression from male patrons. Many men, even the aggressive ones, will baulk at the prospect of attacking a woman and so avoid doing so in situations where they might have been more willing to attack a man.

Additionally, some men feel a sense of intimidation or threat from a male security guard that actually causes them to escalate further towards the point of aggression. They do not want to appear weak or intimidated by the operative, so they become aggressive.

Female security operatives, by contrast, are perceived as being less of a physical threat and, in many cases, can de-escalate a would-be violent situation simply by appealing to the angry patron’s better nature.

In any instance, the key skills of a good front-line security operative are all aimed at PREVENTING danger, not reacting to it. None of the core preventative skills or techniques used by an effective DS are specific to any sex or gender. This is a fact that sometimes gets ignored, but it really shouldn’t be.

The Survey

The aim of our survey was to highlight the outstanding contributions that women bring to the security industry, (despite being a minority within that industry) as well as to call for more females to enter the field of security and explore some methods by which this may be accomplished.

We also wished to understand the prejudices and misconceptions faced by female security workers, as well as get their suggestions regarding how things might be improved upon in the industry overall.

What We Learned – The Basics

We had 94 responses from women working in the security industry. To ensure authenticity, we cross-referenced the names we were given with email addresses in order to ensure that our respondents were who they said they were. By using this method, we can be reasonably sure that only women responded to our survey.

We found that many women in security hold multiple licenses. The vast majority of our respondents (91.3%) were licensed as door supervisors, with the second most popular license being CCTV monitoring (15.2%), followed by close protection (8.7%) and management (7.6%). Overall, 87.1% of our respondents worked on the front lines, with 12.9% occupying management positions.

We then asked what role the operatives occupy in their respective teams, with the majority (28.7%) stating that they worked on the front doors of a venue or establishment. A further 12.7% worked head door, while several others mentioned working security for events such as football matches and concerts.

7.4% of our respondents worked for the NHS, mainly as hospital security.

2.1% of our respondents were security company directors.

We asked if there was a need for women in security, to which 100% of our respondents answered ‘yes’.

We also asked our respondents if they worked alongside other female security operatives. The answers were split, with 48.9% saying “no” and 51.1% saying “yes”.

What Discourages Women from Working in Security

In the interests of gaining a greater insight into the challenges faced by female security operatives in the UK, we began to ask more searching, open questions. The results were intriguing.

With the fact being that women only make up about 11% of Britain’s security workforce, we asked our respondents why they thought women might be ‘put off’ by the prospect of a career in security.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, many of the answers centered around the industry being heavily male dominated, as well as the perception of security as being a ‘man’s game’.

One respondent told us that, “Women are put off [careers in] security as there is the stigma that it’s a male role and that it’s not a job for females. Women are often talked out of taking this career by men as men feel women are not strong enough to take on the role”.

She went on to say that “Women can often feel intimidated by some men who have too much testosterone kicking about, and this can also lead to them not wanting to pursue this career. Men’s attitude to women in this sector can be demoralising and can lead to women comparing themselves to men and often lead to a feeling of inadequacy which in many situations is not the case”

Women feeling intimidated by men is a global problem that is by no means exclusive to the security industry in this, or any other, country.

The respondent also touched on some male operatives having a negative attitude towards their female counterparts.

It’s sad to think that such attitudes could still hold sway more than 2 decades into the 21st century, but it’s also obvious that they do.

Another respondent agreed, stating, “The industry is dominated by men and has been for many decades. The stigma [against women] needs to change and we need to invest money into the careers sector to encourage and make it attractive and exciting for women to see what a professional industry they will be embarking on”

She went on to say, “Scandinavian countries invest money to try and encourage women into the sector and are being successful. I understand some threats and risks are different, but let’s look at how they are doing it. I read a stat the other day that only 2% of U.N mediators are women, this doesn’t make sense when women have higher success rates, I know it’s not the same role necessarily, but there are definitely similarities and these need to be explored!”

We fact-checked the respondent’s claims that only 2% of U.N mediators were female and found this to be accurate. Sadly, the first time we saw this statistic reported, it explained that only 2% of U.N mediators were female between 1991 and 2011. However, that number still hadn’t changed as of 2017.

We agree wholeheartedly with the above statement. More could and should be done to bring women into the security industry, including, where possible, investing some money into making this happen (advertising campaigns, for example). We shall discuss this idea in greater detail further on in the study.

Another answer came courtesy of the respondent who said,

“[Women are put off] Because we aren’t seen as equals to men. Doors reject us based on the fact we aren’t big and burly; clients and customers challenge us more as they don’t believe we can handle the same as a man”

While another told us that,

“It’s a male dominated role with not much chance for women to progress, also we have to fight to prove we can do the job”

We heard quite a few variations of this answer, including one respondent who chided the “Macho culture which means you are not taken as seriously”.

The notion of ‘not being taken seriously’ is deeply unpleasant – and would have a negative impact upon people in any job.

Here at WTD, we’ve talked a lot about physical workplace safety, but there is also such a thing as psychological safety in the workplace.

First described by William Kahn in 1990, psychological safety, essentially, means being accepted for who you are at work, without fear of negative perception and unfair reprisals.

In 2018, Harvard Business School Professor Amy Edmondson published The Fearless Organization: Creating Psychological Safety in the Workplace for Learning, Innovation and Growth’, in this work, Edmondson develops, expands upon and updates Kahn’s concept, describing, among other things, a list of conditions that qualify as offering employees a measure of psychological safety.

According to Edmondson, a psychologically safe workplace is one where employees:

Feel comfortable expressing and being themselves.

  •   Feel able to share concerns and mistakes without fear of embarrassment or retribution.
  •   Are confident they can speak up and won’t be humiliated, ignored, or blamed.
  •   Can ask questions when they are unsure about something.
  •   Trust and respect their colleagues.
  •   Feel confident reporting mistakes quickly, so solutions can also be found quickly.
  •   Know that mistakes are welcomed, rather than shamed.
  •   Have courage to share innovative ideas (even if half-formed).
  •   Feel their opinion counts.
  •   Know they won’t be suppressed, silenced, ridiculed, or intimidated by expressing an original thought.
  •   Can speak their truth.
  •   Know that their performance will still be managed if not reaching agreed expectations, but they won’t be shamed for this.

If female security workers cannot find these conditions in their respective roles, then their team/company is psychologically unsafe, and measures should be immediately enacted to remedy this. From the answers we received, this certainly feels like a serious and ongoing problem being faced by Britain’s female security workers.

A respondent also told us that “Long shifts are often not suited to women if they have childcare responsibilities”. This is another interesting point, although it would be remiss of us to point out that, while it is statistically more likely for women to be primary caregivers, male workers may also have childcare responsibilities that are affected by long working hours.

Our respondent nevertheless makes a good point. Many security operatives in the UK take up security work as a secondary source of income, or because it can offer a flexible schedule. However, the inherent danger, especially that posed by front-line work, together with long hours and high risks of things like developing PTSD, may be understandably off-putting to a parent (or prospective parent).

16 respondents mentioned poor pay, as well as the high levels of risk involved, while the subject of disrespect and not being taken seriously featured highly in the answers we received. Incidents of violence were also mentioned a lot.

Sexism From Male Colleagues

Around 17% of our respondents mentioned being disrespected or belittled by male colleagues.

One respondent said that she often felt like the “token female” and that she had to deal with assumptions that she wasn’t “as mentally or physically strong” as her male colleagues.

Another said that she disliked being “looked at and treated differently” and “being seen as weaker” she also stated that she had to work harder than (and was often unfavourably compared to) her male counterparts.

The idea of female security workers having to work extra hard to ‘prove themselves’ or somehow validate their place on the team was sadly common among our responses.

One respondent told us that she hated “not being taken as seriously as my male counterparts or having to prove myself more than everyone else”

Another respondent informed us that she was often “pushed aside” by her male colleagues in situations that looked as if they were about to escalate. “We’ve all had the exact same training” she stated.

Other discussion points included toilet facilities, with one respondent saying, “On build ups of film sets or festivals [there is] no provision for toilets. [We are] expected to use bushes like the men”

This practice appears to be illegal, as the Health and Safety Executive lists that “where possible, separate facilities for men and women” (or, failing that, “rooms with lockable doors”) should be provided to all workplaces. Even temporary worksites are required by law to provide toilet facilities.

One comment described the sexism experienced by female security operatives in considerable detail. The respondent said that The game playing, backstabbing and deliberate discrediting that goes on between colleagues to stop women from obtaining regular or decent work and rising through the ranks” was a serious problem. 

She went on to say, “This line of work is not for the faint hearted. However, it’s sadly disappointing [that] for every great person you work with, there are still too many examples of lazy, inept, chauvinistic, misogynistic guys within the industry and clients being advised by other men to favour employing these people over smart, professional, extremely capable and loyal female operatives”.

A 2019 study, published by the journal ‘Health Psychology’, found that women who endure sexist abuse are 3 times more likely to experience depression, together with poorer mental health overall.

This is an extremely serious problem. It has been repeatedly proven that security work can lead to a heightened risk of depression, PTSD and other mental illnesses. To add the hazards of sex/gender discrimination to this as well is to put female security workers under greater psychological and emotional stress than their male counterparts – and this is simply unacceptable.

We believe that any male security operatives who belittle, demean, or make fun of their female colleagues on the basis of their sex or gender (even under the guise of ‘banter’) should be severely reprimanded. Should the problem persist, they should be dismissed from the company.

If they do not have one already in place, security companies should create a policy against sexist behaviour and punish transgressors accordingly.

Depression is a serious issue. In fact, it affects more women than men and it claims the lives of at least 800,000 people globally each year. To put female employees at a greater risk of developing depression for any reason is unconscionable.

General Attitudes of Male Colleagues

We asked our respondents what sorts of attitudes their male co-workers displayed towards them.

We’re delighted to say that many of our respondents told us that their dealings with male colleagues were entirely positive and that they weren’t treated any differently than anybody else in the team.

A recurring theme was that the male colleagues had been a bit apprehensive at first but had warmed to their female counterparts after working alongside them for a while.

One respondent said, “Until they know me and work with me, they think I’m some idiot bimbo”

Similar comments included, “At first they seemed to think of me as invisible, but once we’ve got that bond, all is good”

“I’ve been doing it for a long time, so I get treated as part of a family and with respect. At the start I was treated as if the job was beyond my capabilities.”

“Most treat me as part of the team. Those who meet me for the 1st time greatly underestimate exactly what I’m capable of.”

“[You get a] Frosty reception until they realise that you’re there to do the same as them, not to moan or expect special privileges for being female”

“[They treat me] ‘Like a girl’ until they see me solve problems both physically and psychologically”

Whilst we certainly weren’t enamored with some of the early receptions given to these women, these comments nonetheless showed Britain’s male security workers in a better light than some other parts of the survey did.

We especially liked the comment from the respondent who said, “Initially they try to look after me, eventually I look after them”

Another respondent said that she was treated “with respect”, adding “I teach martial arts to most of them”.

One respondent who initially worked on the front lines and now manages her own firm said, When I used to work front lines, there were always a few that were patronising, but very often we were a team, and many recognised the value of having a capable woman working alongside them. Now, from a management perspective, I have had multiple people walk into interviews and assume I’m a secretary or assistant – despite having been given my name and position beforehand. That said, I have an incredible team that work for me and being male or female doesn’t enter the equation”.

It wasn’t all one-way traffic, however. Some of our respondents criticised their male colleagues’ attitudes to them.

One said that she had been treated, “like a lesser security officer”, while another told us that although “the majority have been great”, she has encountered “the odd few who don’t think women should work on doors”.

Sadly, one respondent described her male colleagues’ attitudes towards her as “sh*t” despite her having spent two decades working in the industry.

Another respondent told us, “[Their attitude] can be dire or it can be the same as they’d treat others. I’d say I’ve had more bad initial experiences than good, and I have to prove myself”

A more detailed response came in the form of this comment, which, quite frankly, must be read to be believed, I was talking to a female colleague recently and we were discussing this particular point. When said colleague was working as a DS whilst studying at Uni, she said her first experience of working as DS was as follows (her words): As I booked on to my first shift, I was approached by a fellow male colleague who said to me, ‘welcome, are you a Lesbian or a Slag?’ I’m sure whoever reads this will have the same jaw dropping expression that I did!!! And here is the problem, it’s just how we combat it!”

Most of our responses to this question were reasonably heartening, but there’s still the nagging issue of female operatives having to ‘prove themselves’ before being accepted by their male colleagues.

To a certain extent, every new team member, in any occupation, will have to validate their place in the team at some point. This is especially true in teams that perform dangerous tasks, as they will be taking risks together and depending on one another in hazardous situations. Ultimately, it’s an issue of trust – and there’s nothing wrong with earning trust, in our view.

The issue we have is that these women were judged more harshly and burdened with a greater weight of expectation from the outset simply because they were women.

A key feature of gender discrimination in the workplace is additional expectation. Equal Rights.org describes one aspect of gender discrimination as

“Being held to different or higher standards, or being evaluated more harshly, because of your gender identity, or because you don’t act or present yourself in a way that conforms to traditional ideas of femininity or masculinity”

So, although these stories mostly have happy endings, the women who lived them still had to put up with sexism and gender discrimination in order to get there. They were singled out for rougher treatment and a longer, rockier road to acceptance – and that needs to change.

Sexist Abuse from Patrons

Abuse from patrons was also a recurring theme in the answers we received, as it was in our more generalViolence in the security Industrysurvey of last year.

Unsurprisingly, our female-centric study produced many of the same answers as our general study, with respondents talking about experiencing violent assaults, verbal abuse and, to quote one respondent, “not being recognised as an essential service”

However, the abuse suffered by female security operatives appears to be twofold. In addition to the general abuse faced by most security operatives (regardless of their sex or gender) female security operatives also receive a lot of sexist abuse as well.

One respondent described “rude and arrogant” patrons, who respond to attempts to reason with them by saying things like “you’re a woman. I don’t need to answer to you” (actual quote).

The respondent who founded her own security firm, stated “People [are] constantly surprised by a female company founder”.

She also told us, “When I used to work front line, everything from managing sexual harassment from colleagues and venue patrons to dealing with difficult individuals under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol [was difficult]”. 

In some cases, then, female security operatives are facing discrimination from both their male colleagues, as well as many of the patrons they encounter. This, effectively, leaves them without a team to turn to or trust and creates not only a hostile company culture, but also a hostile and avowedly negative working experience overall.

Not being able to trust your colleagues in a stressful situation is especially difficult for security workers – and increases the risks faced by everyone.   

One respondent, however, stated that she doesn’t find anything particularly hard and that “the only challenging part is when they [patrons] don’t want to play ball, but you just have to deal with it”.

It seems, then, that not every female security operative in the UK is being singled out for abuse or unfair treatment based on her sex. This is encouraging, for sure, but this answer is dwarfed by the sheer number of other respondents stating the opposite, indicating that there is still a big problem here.

Are Male or Female Patrons Harder to Deal with?

We also asked our respondents if they found it harder to deal with male or female patrons.

Interestingly, 78% informed us that they found women harder to deal with than men.

There could be multiple reasons for this. As stated earlier, it’s possible that even some of the more loutish male patrons may be averse to attacking a woman.

On a related note, it may also be that male patrons do not see the presence of a female security operative as a physical challenge in the same way they would a male operative.

Hypothetically, if an aggressive male patron is escalating, or looking to ‘prove himself’ by attacking a DS, then his willingness to comply with the instructions of a male in a position of authority will make him appear weak and spineless (at least in his own eyes – and maybe the eyes of his companions). He may be tempted to escalate things further, even though it’s not in his best interests to do so.

A female operative, on the other hand, may not be seen by this patron as a challenge, allowing him to comply with instructions without looking weak or defeated.

This is a highly generalised example, of course – and it would be completely unfair of us to imply that angry male patrons will not attack a female security operative (we all know that isn’t true). However, we’re willing to bet that it does happen.

It could also be possible that angry female patrons may feel more able to lash out at another woman than they would at a man.

Another possible reason is rooted in science. Men and women metabolise alcohol differently. Women produce a smaller quantity of the enzyme dehydrogenase, which breaks down alcohol, the effect being that most women get drunk quicker than men.

This, coupled with the female body being only 52% water (the male body contains 61%) and various potential hormonal factors (including alcohol’s effect being increased by birth control pills or other hormone-based medication), means that, on average, women get drunker than men.

Could this help to explain female patrons being more abusive?

We have yet to ask male security operatives whether they find male or female patrons harder to deal with. Until we do, we will only be able to offer educated guesswork in response to this answer.

Male - Female Wage Gap

There is a documented wage gap between male and female workers in the UK, as well as throughout the world. In fact, recent figures show that 74% of UK firms pay higher wages to their male workers. We asked our respondents to tell us whether this held true in the field of security work as of 2022.

72.8% of our respondents told us that they were paid the same as their male colleagues, while 8.7% said that they were paid more and 9.8% admitted that they didn’t know. Only 8.7% said that they were being paid less.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) bear this out, revealing that, as of 2021, women working in security and related fields actually earn 13.8% more than men. Women in security earn an average of £12.08 an hour, while men earn £10.56 per hour,

Studies have also shown that the gender pay gap for part-time employees is also closing in most sectors.

We cannot state that these figures will hold true in every single instance. They are, after all, only statistics worked out from aggregate data.

Nevertheless, this is very encouraging. While most industries appear to be struggling to resolve an unfair gender pay gap, the security industry appears to be sailing ahead in this regard.

Do Men Make Better Security Operatives?

As discussed above, women are a minority in the security industry, both domestically and in other countries as well. Throughout the world, the popular perception is that, by virtue of physical characteristics such as strength and height, men are better suited to work in the field of security. We decided to ask our respondents if they felt this was true or not.

Roughly 15% agreed with the statement that men were naturally better at security work than women.

One respondent told us, “I don’t want to sound sexist but yeah I agree with this within some situations”

Another respondent (who described herself as a ‘large woman’), said that people see her as being well suited to her job in part because of her size.

Another replied, “Yes sometimes, but women have some better attributes too”

While another conceded that “Men definitely have that advantage” before stating that, “women play a part equally well”

However, 81% of our respondents answered that, in their opinion, men did not necessarily make better security operatives than women.

One respondent told us, “I don’t agree. Whilst physical strength is useful on odd occasions, I think a woman’s natural curiosity, ability to empathise and communicate are far more useful”

Our respondents’ conception of women as better communicators was a recurring reason for this answer. One respondent told us, “Women have better communication skills”, while another simply said, “Sometimes you need to de-escalate situations verbally, which women tend to be better at”.

We also heard that “Women are better as they can calm situations down by talking instead of throwing their weight about”

In our view, these respondents made a very good point. The security industry has changed dramatically in recent years, with far greater emphasis being placed on verbal de-escalation strategies and psychology than on physical restraint and the use of force.

A physical deterrent is still required, but even the most physically imposing security operative is bound by the rules of reasonable force and the laws concerning what is and is not considered assault.

So, are women really better communicators, or is this simply a stereotype?

According to scientific research, women are indeed better communicators than men. Not only have numerous studies shown women to be better listeners, they are also better with words and generally socialise better than men.

The female brain, despite being slightly smaller than the male brain (something that has no impact on intelligence in either instance) features more than 10% more brain cells in the area known as the planum temporale, which helps women to perceive and process language better.

Women’s brains also feature more ‘mirror neurons’ than men’s, meaning that they are better at observing – and emoting with – the feelings of others. 

So yes, women are indeed better communicators than men, at least on average.

One respondent said, “Men seem to have a shorter fuse and haven’t got the patience, whereas women could prevent and diffuse a physical altercation before it happens. A male just straight-up uses physical intervention because they ‘C.B.A’ with listening to the drunks. This is what I feel from places I’ve worked”

This does not speak highly of this respondent’s colleagues, who may be causing potentially dangerous situations to develop simply by ‘jumping the gun’ and becoming aggressive in situations that do not warrant it.

Another respondent elaborated on her point, saying “99 percent of security is PREVENTION, RISK ASSESSMENTS AND FORESIGHT. If there is a physical altercation you have lost already…”

While another stated, “Different jobs will have different requirements and people should be allocated accordingly, but ultimately empathy, respect, and the ability to de-escalate difficult situations while keeping a cool head is always going to trump brute force. I also know many women in the industry who can hold their own physically, and far better than some men I know. So, I don’t believe [that] those sorts of old-fashioned tropes should still stand in any industry really”

Ultimately, we’re inclined to agree. We feel that if a man does not need to be big or physically imposing to be an effective security operative, why should a woman?

Security operatives come in all shapes and sizes – so to imply that only men can be security operatives must also imply that only big men can be security operatives, unless the argument is that women simply can’t do the job at all – and if that is indeed the argument, then it’s safe to say that the 41,000 fully licensed and qualified women currently working in the field would be effective proof to the contrary.

By any yardstick, security can be a rough game – and anybody going into the field, male, female or anywhere in between, needs to make their peace with that. However, whilst a visual deterrent is always a good thing, so too is the ability to talk with and relate to a potentially dangerous person.

In the end, we feel that intergender security teams offer more solutions to potential problems, as well as a greater degree of security to companies, clients, patrons and each other.

What can be Done to Bring More Women into the Security Industry

Female operatives bring a lot of benefits to the security industry, of this there can be no doubt. So, how can the industry get more women interested in becoming security workers?

We put this question to our respondents. Here’s what they said:

One respondent said that the industry should “Make it more known that women are acceptable. There are some companies in the UK who avoid taking female door staff because they have different ‘characteristics’, [even though] this simply isn’t true. It [the industry] needs to be more welcoming, and deal with male door staff who harass and belittle their female colleagues”. 

Given the experiences described by our respondents, the last part of this answer seems particularly salient.

Another respondent said, “I’d like to see more campaigns highlighting the various skill sets required, [as well as] different kinds of roles and jobs (it’s not all bar doors). [Let’s] showcase women working in the industry.”

She also suggested “mentorship programmes with women in the industry”, which we think is a brilliant idea in general, as well as for women in security. 

One respondent essentially offered a 4-point plan to bring more women into the field by saying, “look at the roles, create a career pathway, professionalise the service and change attitudes to women in security” 

Another respondent suggested publicly challenging the stigma that exists around female security workers, saying We need to change the views on the job from all aspects. Some businesses need to change their way of thinking too before more women can get into the industry”. 

This was echoed by the respondent who said that security work should not be seen as simply a ‘man’s job’ “and that women can do the job just as good if not better than men”.  

Another answer suggested that “We need to do some symposiums and a recruitment drive” which is also a good idea.

One respondent said that the industry should show “more females doing the job via social media”.

This was a popular strategy suggestion, we also received the answer, “We can get more women in by showing publicly that women do have this career and can make a very successful one of it. By possibly talking in career fairs and school careers talks or by making social media aware that females are in security and that there are roles that females do. I do feel not enough emphasis is shown on women in security and by talking about it more we can get it out there that security is a career for females”. 

We completely agree with this point, visibility is very important. In fact, it’s one of the main reasons we conducted this study.

We received several other interesting comments on this subject, including the following,

“I think by seeing more females in security, especially door work [the industry would be more attractive to women]. I have had many conversations with females asking about my job and [they] say they couldn’t do it, but after speaking with them and explaining [that] the role isn’t all about aggression and fights and [is] more about a duty of care and calming situations before they escalate, they rethink their opinion”

Challenging preconceptions is a must if we want to see more women joining Britain’s security workforce.

Moving on, one respondent said that we should “Reassure them [that] it’s not about size/stature. It’s about attitude”, which is a good point well made, we feel.

We also received the suggestion that the industry “Offer more part time roles which can fit around family life”, which is also a very good idea.

The same respondent also hit one of our regular notes and espoused the need for better and more in-depth training, saying, “Offer better training for all but especially females. Offer training or ‘e-learning’ videos to show that you don’t need to be a big, or ‘butch’ female to work in security, as the core skills are communication, de-escalation, and observation. You can be any size to do that. Physical restraint should be a last resort and then women just need to understand the techniques to protect themselves and others from harm”. 

As we’ve opined before, a higher standard of training could go a long way towards solving a great many of the industry’s current woes.

One respondent said she wanted to see “More female run security companies and supervisors”, which would be a good thing in general, as well as helping the ‘visibility’ and ‘stigma’ issues raised by other respondents.    

Finally, one respondent noted that the security sector could embark upon an industry-wide drive to recruit more women, including specifically advertising vacancies for female security operatives.

Overall, we had some solid and well-thought-out responses to this question, with a number of strategies emerging from these suggestions that could really help.

Individual Interviews

We interviewed 4 of the 93 respondents of varying backgrounds to get their view on women in the security industry, with some interesting 

Laura-beth austen - Door Supervisor

How did you get started in security?

I’m a second generation doorwoman, my dad used to do the doors until 2001

What do you enjoy about working in the security industry?

I enjoy the social aspect, alongside the camaraderie. It’s one giant family, who generally try to help one another.

What do female door supervisors offer that their male counterparts don’t?

A more caring presence, plenty of times when women, who are on a night out, have felt scared or upset, they’ve approached myself rather than my male colleagues.

What initiatives could security companies put in place to get more women into security?

Security companies could have some of their female Security officers involved when it comes to recruitment drives, which may encourage more women to get involved

How could the SIA do more to promote women in security?

The SIA could do more interviews with women in security, and push the fact that it is possible for women to succeed in security.

Many of our answers said that Male colleagues underestimate female door supervisors, How do you go about proving yourself?

I’ve had to prove myself by jumping in when I can, and by ejecting people, by myself, to prove to my colleagues that I can handle myself.

Farah Benis - Security Company Director

How did you get started in security?

When I was in university I was working on venue doors as a guest list girl. I realised I could earn a lot more money if I was SIA licensed, and so I decided to go ahead and do so. I moved away from the security industry for about a decade and then when I returned to it quickly worked my way up to working as an Operations Manager with another company. I then decided to start my own business.

What do you enjoy about working in the security industry?

The people aspect. I’m a people person. So whether it’s through providing excellent customer service, knowing that our guests are safe,  our clients are happy, and my team are thriving, I get a lot of satisfaction.

What do female door supervisors offer that their male counterparts don’t?

In certain situations female-to-female interaction is going to be the most appropriate, which is why it is so important to have balanced security teams. I read an article recently that said 78% of people respond more positively to women over men in customer facing positions. I think people do respond differently when you’re a woman in security, and for the most part it’s positive.

What initiatives could security companies put in place to get more women into security?

I think it’s important for companies to have more female friendly policies in place and actually act on them. I know too many companies that let sexual harassment slide with no consequences for the perpetrators. For a lot of women, knowing the company you work with has really got your back makes all the difference. That said, many of the men I have worked with in this industry  have experienced it too. There’s a lot to be done in this space to support security personnel of both sexes.

How could the SIA do more to promote women in security?

I want to see more visibility of women working in the industry on every level. There also needs to be a further focus in licensing that that educates on gender and unconscious bias, as well as sexual harassment. 

Many of our answers said that Male colleagues underestimate female door supervisors, How do you go about proving yourself?

By doing your job to the best of your best ability every day. I take my responsibility to my team seriously in creating a safe and supportive environment where everyone can thrive, learn, and ultimately further their careers. 

Rachel Gibson - Office & Front line searching

How did you get started in security?

A friend worked in Security and I applied for a job working in the courts with her

What do you enjoy about working in the security industry?

I like the variety of people and situations that you get to deal with

What do female door supervisors offer that their male counterparts don’t?

Women are naturally nosey so I think they tend to notice more! Also I think women tend to be perceived as less threatening when attending situations

What initiatives could security companies put in place to get more women into security?

Better training, a focus on safety before and after the door.

How could the SIA do more to promote women in security?

Use more images of females, provide information geared towards women and how to stay safe before and after the shift, put in recommendations  for best practice for team safety.

Many of our answers said that Male colleagues underestimate female door supervisors, How do you go about proving yourself?

I don’t need to, I did the same course as everyone else.

Lou Walker - Venue Security Manager

How did you get started in security?

In 2005 working for a surveillance organisation.

What do you enjoy about working in the security industry?

There are so many people from different backgrounds with great stories to tell around the reason they came into the industry.

I enjoy the aspect of looking after people, putting a securiry posture together and know it’s working when everyone goes home safe.

What do female door supervisors offer that their male counterparts don’t?

Mediation skills. Albeit I don’t doors. I am CP and put large scale events together from a SEC perspective.

 

What initiatives could security companies put in place to get more women into security?

Reach out to schools and show women that the Security industry can be a very professional one. Look at a programme for 16-18 year olds, maybe women from diverse backgrounds, women that have been in DV situations for example. Women that have disabilities for example, I am blind in one eye but it has never stopped me. I have looked after a lot of VIP ( not just in the celeb world) and looked after some large scale events. I would happily share my story if it helped and supported other women to look at the industry and see what a great career they could make out of it. We can all use our life experience to help others believe they can achieve regardless of barriers.

How could the SIA do more to promote women in security?

Look at all the groups and associations that support the SIA. For example the ASC ( it’s all white middle aged men! ) The SIA should have more of a opinion on this.

Many of our answers said that Male colleagues underestimate female door supervisors, How do you go about proving yourself?

I don’t need to prove myself, that’s the mans issue not mine!

In Conclusion

We’re only just beginning to appreciate the wealth of benefits that female operatives bring to the security industry. Hiring more women would be an important step towards making Britain’s security workers safer and more able to function.

With better communication skills comes a firmer grasp of things like de-escalation strategies and psychological techniques, all of which can help to limit the amount of violent incidents experienced by security workers, something which is of paramount importance to an industry beset by violence, aggression and abuse on a nightly basis.

Female security operatives bring different perspectives, can cover areas that male security guards may struggle with (e.g., female-only spaces such as changing rooms and toilets and the searching of female patrons) and, in some cases (for example, our respondent who teaches her male colleagues martial arts), can restrain an aggressive or violent patron just as well (or even better) than their male counterparts.

However, in order to bring more women into the industry, predominantly male security firms need to first examine and, where necessary, challenge, both themselves and their attitudes towards their female employees – and towards women in general.

Moreover, the industry needs to challenge core notions that security work must always be violent and/or physical and that only those people comfortable with inflicting or enduring violence need apply. The primary skills used by the modern security worker are not gender specific in any way. We would do well to remember that.  

Sexism or gender discrimination, in any workplace, should not exist – and our study has shown that the security industry does have problems in this area, perhaps problems even more serious than those that exist in other sectors such as retail and business.

The more-than-equal rates of pay are a good start, as are the apparent number of mixed-gender security teams operating happily and efficiently together, but there is still a lot of road to cover if the industry is to appear more attractive to female employees.

This can be achieved, we feel, by employing some (if not all) of the strategies proposed above, strategies put directly to you by 94 of Britain’s 41,000 female security workers.

These suggestions, together with the contributions above, should be enough to demonstrate to even the most skeptical observer that women, in our industry as much as any other, are always an indispensable presence.

We would like to give a Big Thankyou to all the women that took part in our survey and we really appreciate your answers.