According to the World Bank’s World Development Indicators database, as of 2021, women represented 49.61 per cent of the workforce in Kenya. Over the years, women have been involved in different work sectors including private security.
The modern private security sector has evolved from being a male-dominated sector that focused only on physical strength to one that favours qualities such as communication, diversity, empathy, friendliness, and industry knowledge coupled with advanced conflict resolution skills which are highly valued by employers. With this change, the industry is diversifying, and the need for female officers is growing.
This year’s International Women’s Day theme was a call to embrace equity, to get organizations around the world to realize that it is not enough to give men and women same resources and opportunities, but that we have to look at the circumstances and challenges each face and give resources according to these circumstances.
Equity in the security sector involves women being fit to be guards and still creating avenues and rules that favour them to create a level playing field without inconveniencing any member of the team.
To embrace equity in the security sector is to realize that women and men though in the same industry doing the same tasks, are different. It is therefore important to address those differences by creating an environment that accepts the differences and creates opportunities that give everyone what they need to be successful.
Culturally, women are viewed as nurturers, in that they take care of households and families. Embracing equity would mean that we allow women to work during the day and let male colleagues work the night shift.
A diverse and versatile team can help a security company stay competitive and adaptable. Take security guards, for example, while social joints may be looking for a burly man to guard their premises, office buildings and corporate clients may have different requirements. Each business has its unique security requirements, and not every business will be looking for a more traditional security guard. Women security officers are not only preferred but also required when conducting pat-downs and body searches on women.
Hiring female security officers is not only great from an equal opportunities perspective, but it also makes financial sense. Hiring a diverse range of security officers makes a security company considerably more versatile and adaptable for clients, allowing businesses to cater for a greater variety of business needs. A female security guard can help women feel more comfortable, as they are seen as less intimidating and more approachable to women, young people, and children.
If you need ‘invisible’ security, which essentially means security guards that do not envision the traditional image of security guards, instead of standing out playing the “obvious bodyguard”, women are able to fade into the background, carrying out important security checks unbeknownst to the rest of the public. As a woman in a male-dominated industry, this works to her advantage. It draws less attention and allows for a more discreet operation, which some clients prefer. It is also common decency to have a female security guard oversee sections of an establishment that are meant for women.
Women can contribute to fresh and creative ideas paving the way for the future of the security industry. As former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton once said, when women enter the workforce, it spurs innovation, increases productivity, and grows economies. Employing more women does not just accomplish gender parity, but it is also incredibly beneficial to the workplace culture as it promotes broader thinking, fresh viewpoints, and financial performance.
While women are often considered unsuitable for security roles due to the sometimes-confrontational nature of security work, women are often seen to have good communication skills that can defuse a situation and offer a better and more level-headed approach hindering a situation from escalating into violence. By increasing women's inclusion, we strengthen security and conflict prevention in a pragmatic way. This ultimately leads to more stable and sustainable security for all.
In the current society, we have seen the role of women shifting from being just stay-at-home mothers, to being breadwinners. The inclusion of women in the private security sector not only helps them to be part of the solution to security matters in the country but also provides them with resources to take care of their families. Men and women alike, need to change their view of security as it is just a man’s world. As we have seen, women have a lot to offer to the growth of the security sector.
The writer, Irene Opondo, is Sales & Marketing Manager at SGA Kenya
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