Having a gender-diverse workforce has a wide range of benefits, including a larger talent pool and a greater array of perspectives at the table. It can also increase revenue: McKinsey data shows that companies with more gender diversity are 25 percent more likely to have above-average profitability than companies in the bottom gender diversity quartile. 

The importance of hiring and advancing women in the security industry was emphasized at the Security Industry Association (SIA) and ASIS International’s inaugural Security LeadHER conference, which took place June 12-13 in Nashville. Here are some key takeaways:

Recognize and Mitigate Unconscious Bias

According to Barbara Okumu and Belinda Othieno of the Kenya-based female-oriented security company Lady Askari, everyone is susceptible to unconscious bias against women in the industry. Okumu, Lady Askari’s HR and administration manager, and Othieno, the company’s finance manager, point out that anyone who has ever hired someone based on a gut feeling, respected someone based on the university they attended or thought someone couldn’t do a task because of their gender, has exhibited unconscious bias. 

Our own unconscious biases against women and other groups can have negative impacts like hostile work environments, hindered career advancement and handicapped organizations, said Okumu and Othieno, and organizations can address and mitigate unconscious bias through “mentorship, replacing competition with cooperation and creating structures and policies that eliminate bias” like training programs.   

Leverage Gender Diversity for Success

Stephanie Prentice — safety, security and emergency management consultant at Complete Threat Preparedness — noted key biological differences between men and women, including differences in their brains, bodies and development, and the general strengths and weaknesses of each sex. According to Prentice, having gender diversity and leveraging the unique strengths of both women and men are critical to the industry’s success. 

“We each have strengths and weaknesses, and we need each other to be stronger,” said Prentice. “It takes both men and women to complete the full picture.” 

Collaborate and Boost Women in Security

According to Eliza VanCort, author of “A Woman’s Guide to Claiming Space,” women and minority professionals are sometimes pitted against each other, competing for limited leadership roles and essentially fighting for their spots “at the bottom.” VanCort urges women in the industry to collaborate and boost other women’s positions to help grow the available space for diverse candidates. 

Additionally, Charity Blackwell, DEI practitioner, spoken word artist, emcee and poetry specialist, encourages “paying it forward” and emphasized how mentors, bosses and colleagues can pave the way for future women leaders’ success.

To view more insights, highlights and photos from the Security LeadHER conference, to here.