The road to innovative security through inclusion and diversity – the future of the security sector
How can inclusion and diversity enhance the practices and innovation of the security sector, which contributes billions to the UK economy and provides fundamental services for the protection of society during these challenging times?
Going forward, how can we attract and retain the talent needed to foster innovation, reflecting the diversity of the society it supports?
Physical and psychological safety – the foundation of inclusion
The notions of safety and security came to the forefront of the nation’s consciousness during the pandemic. More often, safety would signify taking all possible measures to avoid the virus. Safety and security were also discussed when feeling vulnerable walking down the empty streets or even working from home. A third area of insecurity is cyber abuse. To mark ‘National Personal Safety Day’ in 2020, the personal safety charity, the Suzy Lamplugh Trust, published a report on cyber abuse in the workplace, highlighting that it affects around one third of us in the UK.
There is a further important way to feel part of something: inclusion is necessary for most of us to achieve psychological and physical safety, including in the workplace.
From a business perspective, companies that focus on inclusion naturally retain more talent. Inclusion starts with an environment where people have a sense of belonging, and feel accepted, safe and valued. Where diversity is key to fostering innovation, new ideas and solutions are born and the organisation can thrive. In this era of ‘The Great Resignation’ millions have revaluated their career choices. This has already triggered mass resignations in the US, and we can expect it to impact the security industry.
The Security Institute’s Diversity and Inclusion survey
In August 2021, the Security Institute’s Inclusive Security Special Interest Group (ISSIG) launched an inclusion and diversity questionnaire, aiming to understand the security sector’s workforce in greater detail. The questionnaire addresses a wide variety of demographic categories, including, but not limited to, age, ethnicity, sexual orientation, educational background, and gender, as well as both visible and non-visible disabilities.
What we have to remember is that while the survey data can give us a better idea of the diversity of the workforce, it does not give the full measure of inclusivity. Diversity is the exercise that an organisation undertakes to ensure the workforce includes different genders, ethnicities, ages, etc. Inclusion is creating an exciting and safe workplace that encourages differences and sees the innovation value of the whole team, and all staff want to stay. As women, we have experienced discrimination in the sector and, unfortunately, know others who have left the sector as they were never made to feel safe or part of ‘the team’. This is equally applicable for ethnicities and other ‘different’ personal profiles.
The preliminary findings of the survey record a low representation of women in the security sector, with 77.7% of the 655 respondents identifying as male, 82.1% of respondents identifying as White and 63.6% aged over 45. The survey also revealed that 88% of respondents identified as heterosexual, 8.3 % as gay, lesbian, bisexual, asexual, pansexual or queer and 2.7% preferred not to say.
In the qualitative part of research undertaken with the survey by Enyioma Anaba’s ‘Driving diversity and inclusion within the security industry in the UK ‘, when asked how safe they felt at work, all respondents within the minority ethnic, gender, and sexual orientation groups, excluding the mixed-race participants, stated they felt unsafe, highlighting that stereotypes and unconscious bias contribute to this. All respondents within the LGBTQ community reported making individual adjustments to feel safe.
Going forward, how can the security industry create positive change and lead with inclusion to attract and retain talent and foster innovation? As a sector, it’s our responsibility to ensure that the workforce of security professionals reflects the people whom we serve to protect. A diversity of viewpoints and backgrounds will mean that, as a sector, we are best prepared to tackle the threats of both today and tomorrow.
It is helpful when managing the risks of a diverse workforce if those responsible for their security reflect a similar diversity. To create innovation and dynamic services and products, the sector needs a talent pool that is as diverse as the society it serves; this is currently not the case within the security sector. Therefore, if we are going to attract the next generation into the sector, it is important to raise awareness about the variety of opportunities available.
The industry needs to create a physically and psychologically safe space for all individuals, regardless of their background and personal profile, to thrive and have the opportunity to achieve their potential, free from prejudice and discrimination. This is about inclusive leadership and management, active listening and stepping out of our comfort zone. We must all have the curiosity to learn about and from others and must understand that every individual has their unique story and gifts, shaped by countless factors: background, origin, gender, religion, education, socio-economic background and lived experiences.
Providing a safe space to start conversations and raise awareness is a good first step; however, we must make sure that these are not closed echo chambers amongst minority groups. Diversity should not become an exercise in tokenism or be divisive itself. If the sector encourages a growth in opportunities for all individuals and provides a safe environment that truly nurtures diversity and inclusion, innovation and growth will follow.
Anna-Liisa Tampuu & Lisa Reilly
Co-Chairs of the Security Institute’s Inclusive Security Special Interest Group (ISSIG)