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Security and diversity

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Security and Diversity

Photo of four women civil servants in a meetingWelcome to the new Security and Diversity blog! A space to shine a light on the work of women in the security field. The aim is to share knowledge, experience and air diversity issues related to the world of security, in the civil service and beyond.

There is an exciting conversation about diversity going on in the civil service right now. From the new appointment of Melanie Dawes as Gender Champion for the Civil Service, to the noise around the Hay Group Report, Women in Whitehall: culture, leadership, talent and the positive steps that individual departments like BIS are taking to improve diversity. Diversity is on the agenda.

Similarly, security issues are a permanent fixture in everyday news and politics. Whether it is the Cabinet Office adoption of new technologies, flooding, or the horrific attacks in Paris and Nigeria, these issues are of crucial importance to the UK and the UK Civil Service. These events may not seem connected to diversity issues, but conversations about diversity and security are very much linked.

What do we mean when we talk about security?

‘Security’ refers to an extremely broad range of protections that the UK Government uses to protect people, buildings, information and includes the law enforcement agencies and security policy formation. Such a catch-all term naturally entails a hugely diverse range of roles. Such a diversity of roles requires diverse talent.

Maximising diverse talent directly influences our ability to predict and respond to events, rapidly shifting demands and our ability to manage change as a result of these watershed moments. What does a genuine commitment to a truly diverse workforce practically mean? We shouldn’t fear the productive tension that can come about from the interplay of different skills, talents, backgrounds and perspectives. This tension means better decision making and the creation of more effective polices. In the security world, where the stakes are so high and the issues are of critical importance, it is even more necessary.

Opening up the debate

Walking into security meetings, you can usually count the number of women on 1 hand or even with 1 finger. Why is security still such a male-dominated environment? Why are women so under-represented in technical roles? What can we do to encourage a more open conversation about diversity in the security profession? This blog will ask questions (hopefully the right ones!) and take opinions from people in the full spectrum of security roles, from police, to the military and policy professionals in the heart of Whitehall. The focus is to contribute to the conversation about culture, perceptions, leadership, talent and diversity, all with a security slant.

Opening up security will ensure that the people working on how to best protect the UK, its people, government and resources reflect the population they serve.

Tune in for the next blog from Dr Liane Saunders, Acting Deputy National Security Advisor, for her unique insights on diversity and national security.

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  1. Comment by Thamir Al Adhami posted on

    It is a very timely and commendable initiative that have my full support. Modern society is changing rapidly and we need change in culture and perception. We are all driven by a number of factors; instinct, culture, experience [practical and theoretical] and perception. Engaging women's talent and experience in decision making process on security issues will enable us to make more humane and balanced decisions. There is a long history of women's involvement in security issues at various levels; information gathering, research etc. with inadequate representation at the decision making level. Its now the time to redress that.

  2. Comment by Helen D posted on

    While I am unable to comment from everyone's perspective I am able to share my experience. My initial exposure within the Civil Service was through volunteering to take on the ITSO role within my unit; a function I relished. I left that role through promotion, I have not left being interested in the subject. To aim to keep my skills up I am studying with the Open University working towards a Pgd in Computing (Information Security and Forensics). I am looking to get back into a security role and am currently waiting outcome of a sift. I feel the biggest potential obstacle to getting back into a security function is my current clearance level.

    • Replies to Helen D>

      Comment by Sophia Adhami posted on

      Thanks for your comment Helen - really useful to hear about your experience.

    • Replies to Helen D>

      Comment by MarkW posted on

      Your clearance level shouldn't be a barrier and, if it's being used as one, it's a false barrier. When I applied for my current post, there was a requirement to either have or get DV clearance. I didn't have that level of clearance then and I don't have it now, 4 years later. I have SC clearance, but that's only because I'm a crypto-custodian. I think I might have looked at one or two secret documents in my time here, and nothing higher. No need for inflated clearance levels...

      • Replies to MarkW>

        Comment by Helen D posted on

        Mark while it should not be a barrier having seen a job advert with a statement saying "preference will be given to candidates who already hold a DV Clearance" makes me wonder if preference is given more routinely.