Women in Security

Issue 1 2023 Editor's Choice, News

The 8th of March 2023 marks International Women’s Day, with this year’s theme being ‘DigitALL’ which will focus on Innovation and Technology for gender equality. Given the timing and subject of this article, this seems fitting.

In a traditionally male-dominated industry, there is a new movement of capable women penetrating the security services sector, advocating for both sound business strategy and an IT-centric, holistic approach to security solutions, making a significant difference to the industry in the process. Their efforts have opened the industry to professionals capable of changing along with the times, with fresh approaches and creative ideas paving the way for the future of the security industry around the world. Indeed, women have been adding credibility to the sector, infusing respect in the eyes of their end user customers.

Meanwhile, well-meaning detractors, concerned that men make better security professionals due to their physical characteristics, may have fundamentally misunderstood the complex role of the modern security professional. The industry has evolved far beyond brute strength. Bona fide industry knowledge is what is valued by employers and clients.

Meanwhile, for the women, the journey has not been easy, with women facing and having to overcome tremendous macro, industry and on-job barriers.

Global participation in the STEM fields

Women throughout history have made significant contributions to the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (think Katherine Johnson), yet worldwide, women and girls remain underrepresented in the STEM fields, with only 3% of women studying information technology.

Women’s exclusion from the digital world has been estimated to have shaved 1 trillion dollars from the GDP of low- and middle-income developing countries, such as South Africa, in the past decade alone (UN, 2022). In a 2017 white paper, Frost and Sullivan stated that women still earn less than men earn, and experience various forms of discrimination within the field of cybersecurity. (Frost & Sullivan, 2017).

General economic participation in South Africa

This segways into the economic situation In South Africa, where gender disparity is highest in the area of economic participation and opportunity.

During 2022, for example, men occupied over 67% of the total managerial roles in this country (Statista, 2022). Unequal earnings are evident in households too, with 38% of homes managed by women, yet they are 40% poorer than households managed by men. Meanwhile, the Human Sciences Research Council estimates that 60% of South Africa’s children have an absent father, and that 40% of mothers are single parents.

These same working single mothers and indeed South African women in general, are then also faced with a gender pay gap of between 23% and 35% (HSRC, 2023).

In the security profession, just as in any other, women face unequal pay, delayed promotion and various other challenges that need be addressed. (Security Industry Association, 2018).

On-the-job discrimination

Old attitudes are persistent, with the security industry at times resembling an ‘old boys club’, where institutionalised sexism is unfortunately the norm. Meanwhile, according to a recent survey, 64% of female security officers have experienced bullying, sexual harassment, and gender-based violence while working in a security role (Farley, 2021).

On top of these overt displays of discrimination, women in security often find themselves battling micro-aggressions and stereotyping on a more insidious level.

Join the conversation

In an effort to spearhead a national conversation, Hi-Tech Security Solutions together with ASIS International’s South Africa Chapter, will be focusing on women working within the South African physical security services and information technology sectors during 2023.

To this end, the magazine will be profiling a number of women from all facets of the industry value chain over the next 12 months, with ASIS and Hi-Tech Security Solutions co-hosting two major events.

We will be talking to women working within every aspect of the industry value chain: independent consulting, IT infrastructure, manufacturing, distribution, system integration, guarding, fire suppression, cybersecurity, risk management, to name a few. We will also interview some of the industry’s end-user clients, for their own views on the women in security whom they have dealt with professionally. In addition, we will ask our monthly interviewee to nominate three other ladies working within the value chain whom she feels our readers should also get to know.

Keep an eye out for Issue 2.


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