Women in security
Aspiring to support women in all aspects of career progression, the Women’s Security Society (WSS) had its inaugural members’ event on 24th May in London. 165 people proved that a good Friday night is networking with other security professionals. Professor Gloria Laycock, OBE, Emma Hunwick, iSIGHT Partners and Rebecca Stephens, MBE, were the evening’s speakers and agreed that it was the first security event they had spoken at where women outnumbered men.
Founded by four women who met managing security elements of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games and with nearly 300 members already, their fresh and dynamic approach is receiving positive feedback from all quarters.
“Our aim is to have as many women as men in the security sector and that they are equally valued, equally recognised,” says co-founder Charlie Timblin, now a Security Operations Manager at Bank of America Merrill Lynch.
Positive impact of the Women’s Security Society
They are determined that the Society will bring benefits across the security industry, to employers and employees alike. For them, convergence is key, bringing together all areas of security. “We want depth and breath across industry disciplines at our events,” says co-founder Katie Barber, now Senior Security Programme Manager at the Post Office, “including representatives from cyber, fraud, intelligence, physical and whether corporate, operational or technology focused, this convergence is our unique selling point”.
It’s not just greater female representation they are seeking. “We are passionate about diversity in all aspects and want more diversity in the security industry, it will only develop itself if it diversifies,” says Charlie. “If everyone has the same background and experience, you can get to a decision quickly, but how well thought through will that decision be?”
In time, the Society will develop initiatives around mentoring, career advice and planning. Co-founder Sarah Harvie, now Information Security Manager at BAE Systems Submarines explains, “We want to give advice about the opportunities that exist out there, including to new graduates. The security industry is now so broad that you can become a bit disillusioned with all the experience necessary.”
The women recognise they cannot do this alone and acknowledge the superb support they have from their employers, managers and male colleagues. “We enjoy working with men and recognise the benefits of a diverse team; generating interest from women in the industry will provide that diversity the industry so needs. As the Society develops and cultural changes take place, so the industry will change, we hope to support generating confidence to work in what is currently a male-dominated industry,” says Sarah.
Extending your list of contacts is key, “if you are working on something for the first time, there is real strength in being able to pick up the phone and speak to someone who has approached it before,” says Charlie.
The advantages to employers are apparent. Members will get the chance to meet people from across the industry. The aim is that members will feel better equipped with greater awareness and knowledge across a wide spectrum, adding to the contribution they can make to their organisations.
Joining the Women’s Security Society
It is free to join the society and benefits will include bi-annual meetings, an online forum and monthly feature article from one of the board members. The Society is open to all to apply. Sarah admits that 95% of membership to date is women, “Men are very welcome to join, but the focus will be on women and to help women advance, this in turn will hopefully help the security industry diversify”.
The four founding members see the WSS as their part of the Olympic legacy. They came together from diverse aspects of the security world and felt that too often those in security work in silos, without the opportunity to develop in other related fields. Jane Wainwright, Co-founder and now Senior Manager in the Information Security practice at PwC explains, “We all come at security from different angles, there wasn’t a single networking opportunity we could all benefit from, so we decided to start our own”. Now joined by nine other board members and chair Sue Seaby, Vice President & Global Head – Corporate Security & Safety Programs for Aon Service Corporation, WSS looks to set to be a key player in the advancement of women in security. “We did not envisage that it would snowball so quickly and with such enthusiasm,” adds Jane and, as Rebecca Stephens said on the opening night, “this is about helping women, but not at the expense of men, so we can move forward together”.
You can join the Women’s Security Society via their website. Once approved, you will have access to the members’ area, with details of events and the online discussion forum.