A rare breed...
When I was asked to write a Blog on the subject of Women in Security, I thought - why! However after a little reflection I had to acknowledge that female DSOs are a bit of a rare breed and maybe my own positive experiences as the BIS DSO might encourage others to “give it a go” in an area where I think women have much to offer. Most people’s perception of “Security” jobs are almost cartoon-like, man-handling trouble makers and such like. Indeed my own early involvement here in a violent protest at the reception to our HQ in Victoria Street, left me feeling slightly inadequate and out of place. Our Security Guards wondered why this diminutive lady had made an appearance while a prolonged attempt to invade our offices was going on. My job in fact was to liaise with the Permanent Secretary and Ministers about the lock down and next steps for our staff - an exercise I learned a great deal from on a personal level.
Women in the business, is good for business
Rather than asserting that women per se are made to work in Security and should move into this area asap, I thought that I should start at a more strategic level and link to the McKinsey’s ‘Women Matter’ report which shows that companies with three or more women in top management functions deliver 10 per cent better return on equity. In BIS our Permanent Secretary in particular and Ministers including Jo Swinson, champion “Women on Boards” and their actions speak louder than words as we have a very high ratio of women on BIS boards. I agree with our top team and with the assertion, backed up by research, that gender diversity delivers better business results. The culture and leadership climate in security is good for business as individuals and customers need confidence in our ability to protect our employees, the citizen and increasingly, their data. Companies who do this well thrive and departments who treat these issues seriously enjoy the confidence of customers. [Look at Amazon!]
I do believe that positive action initiatives are part of the answer to the challenge of increasing the number of women in the top security roles. I also believe that the use of mentoring for senior female civil servants and the use of role models will encourage women who enjoy this type of work to sign up. A varied background in Finance, IT Programme Delivery in MOD and BIS, Information Management and Skills Planning has brought me here, via a very circuitous route by anyone’s standards.
The most attractive selling point about security is variety
A week in this DSO role can vary from briefing the Executive Board on Cyber threats and our proposed response to them, to reviewing the level of physical protection in our 27 sites against terrorist attacks. I also deal with potential insider threats, information breaches and review future IT plans for proportionate approaches to security. Working with our Guard service and Facilities Management services is critical to success, as are good programme and project management skills in delivering against our Security Strategy. This is all about effective risk identification and management after all!
I am sure that described like this, a role in Security will connect with Fast Streamers, as well as “Slow… but diligent…. Streamers (like me!)” and maybe other female DSOs will also be able to encourage more diverse talent into security too . I really hope those of you attending the MOJ hosted Civil Service International Women’s day event on 9th March, give security a thought before you rule it out as a 'job for the men!'