As a female executive in the security industry – with 24 years in aviation before joining GardaWorld – Chantal Baril is often asked how women can get ahead in male-dominated industries like these. Her short answer is, “They have to earn it.”
The longer answer is that there’s no reason women can’t succeed in security careers. But the first step is for the industry to attract more women into it.
Calling all women. There are many reasons women should find security careers attractive and excel in them. For example, at its heart, the security is a service business, which means it’s people-centered — employees serving customers. Boil that down further, and it’s people serving people.
Women, by nature, have strong competencies in this regard. They typically shine in their tendencies to care about others and strive to ensure others’ well-being. This can translate into two big strengths women can offer the security industry. One is in customer service; the other is in managing people.
Connecting the dots. During my career, I have focused on helping employees help customers. In doing that, I always take the extra time and effort to also communicate how their day-to-day customer service activities connect with our overall company mission.
In turn, this would help them feel they were making a difference not only in their customer interactions, but also in company performance. Done consistently, this creates a virtuous circle out of which comes confident, more competent employees — both men and women — who are empowered and motivated to take charge and make decisions on their own, and even to not fear making mistakes. That leads to a high-performance workplace, where women can advance on their own merits.
Facing headwinds. Of course, we can’t ignore the headwinds that the security industry’s male traditions might cause. The first step to mitigating this phenomenon is to understand its source. For as long as private sector security has existed, two main sources of personnel and management have been the military and police, both male dominated even as more and more women join their ranks.
Out of necessity, both military and police operations require regimentation and following orders. The soft people skills required by customer service must often take a backseat or, in battlefield and crime-in-progress situations, be dismissed altogether. In these cases, “nice guys” may not finish last; they might finish in a hospital bed or worse.
Boosting results. In the security industry, men and women may differ in their approach to work, but that’s not to say one approach is better than the other. In practice, they are usually complementary. And both contribute to the bigger picture of why diversity in business is important: Diverse views can provide better solutions and results.
The second step for women to succeed in security careers is for them to have a personal career plan in place, then work their plan. If a speed bump emerges or even a wall, then they have to be resilient, persistent and resourceful in dealing with it, while staying focused on their longer-term career goals. Ultimately, their passion for what they do, driven by their views and values, is what will carry them through.
I encourage any women who are seeking fulfilling careers to consider working in the security industry, in general, and working for GardaWorld, in particular, as one of the industry’s leading companies. Among GardaWorld’s growing ranks of female employees, I encourage each of them to develop career plans, together with their managers. They should also seek mentors, both women and men, who can help guide them along their way.
As time moves on, more and more opportunities for women will open up and need competent candidates to fill those roles. In the meantime, women who choose – or who already have chosen – careers in security should find their work days to be full of ever-changing challenges and never-dull moments in serving customers and their fellow employees. And I’d be remiss in not adding that security work can also be a lot of fun!