the inclusion of individuals representing more than one national origin, colour, religion, socioeconomic stratum, sexual orientation, etc.: diversity in the workplace.
Whether you agree with the movement or not, Black Lives Matter has certainly brought issues of race, prejudice, and discrimination to the forefront of the national debate. While many businesses already pay lip service to diversity and inclusion in their employment policy, this renewed focus on institutional racism in the UK has perhaps caused businesses across the country to critically review their commitment to diversity in the workforce.
Thanks to the 2010 Equality Act, discrimination in the workplace and wider society based on ‘protected characteristics’ such as race, sex, gender, sexual orientation, age, or disability is against the law. Indeed, workplace diversity not only encompasses ethnicity and race, but also involves other areas such as gender diversity, disability inclusivity and much more. While it may be against the law to discriminate against employees or employment candidates based on ‘protected characteristics’, many industries still lack an inclusive workforce and remain dominated by a homogenous group eg. largely white or male.
Examples of these sectors include:
Private security is a further example of an industry that fails to reflect the diverse make-up of the UK’s population. Back in 2015, the Security Industry Authority investigated its own diversity standards, and the findings left a lot to be desired.
Indeed, according to the SIA’s own study, the security industry as a whole is failing in diversity and inclusion, lacking gender diversity and equal opportunities for both ethnic minorities and those with disabilities.
The first step to a more inclusive and diverse workplace is acknowledging that there’s a diversity problem. To do this, you need data, both statistical and anecdotal, to investigate where the sector fails and succeeds and the reasons behind this. Using data collected by the Security Industry Authority, we decided to investigate just how diverse the sector is and the challenges that those with ‘protected characteristics’ can face when entering the sector and throughout their day to day career.
Between 2015-2020, the number of female security officers has remained steadily between 9-10%. The security sector has long been a male dominated industry and lacking significantly in gender diversity, particularly in the UK. Data from the SIA Australia indicates that there’s significantly more gender diversity down under, with women constituting nearly a quarter of SIA licence holders.
According to the SIA’s 2015 survey, 46% of female licence holders are employed as door supervisors. With 65% of all licence holders currently working on the door, this suggests that female officers are 9% less likely to be employed in this role than their male counterparts.
It’s not all bad news, however. When it comes to salaries, the SIA found that women were most likely to earn around £9-10, which is around the average wage of a security officer in the UK. Although there are significantly less women working in the security industry, the data suggests the wage gap in the sector is minimal, if non-existent.
When examining the reasons for the underrepresentation of women in the private security sector, the SIA found that pre-conceived assumptions about the industry were putting women off pursuing a career as a security officer. The main issues identified were:
With men constituting 90% of licence holders, it’s safe to say that the security sector is heavily male dominated, which is something that female officers or potential candidates definitely notice.
Respondents also highlighted the dangerous nature of the job and the misconception that security guarding requires pure physical strength as a potential reason for the low uptake amongst women.
The security industry can require a lot of flexibility from officers. With long shifts and nightshifts, it can be difficult to balance family life and security work- particularly if employers are inflexible.
Sadly, people still hold preconceptions and stereotypes about female security officers, and sometimes refuse to employ women in certain positions, particularly as door supervisors.
Currently, the SIA does not hold data on the ethnic diversity of its licence holders. Due to this lack of data, it’s hard to examine how ethnically inclusive the security sector currently is. Their 2015 survey did reveal the rather shocking revelation that officers belonging to an ethnic minority were most likely to be paid between £8-9 an hour, a whole pound less then the average hourly wage of a security officer.
When it comes to security roles, 46% of survey respondents worked as door supervisors, 6% as corporate security officers and 4% as night shift security. Overall, ethnic minorities were less likely to hold managerial or supervisor positions than both women and the general total, confirming data that suggests career progression is more difficult for those from ethnic backgrounds. 44% of respondents reported that progressing in the security industry was either ‘fairly’ or ‘very difficult’, a whole 7% more than the total average.
After speaking in more detail with security officers, the SIA found that the main barriers to greater ethnic diversity at all levels of the industry where:
According to the SIA, security companies, recruiters, training companies and licence holders (including those from ethnic minority backgrounds), poor English language skills were identified as one of the biggest barriers to employment and progression in the security sector. Excellent communication skills are one of the most critical competencies needed to work in the industry. Whether your diffusing a situation or explaining something to a client, a decent level of English is required by security officers.
Sadly, many ethnic minorities face racism in their day-to-day work, often extending beyond the security industry itself. Oxford Language defines racism as “prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism against a particular racial or ethnic group, typically one that is a minority or marginalised.” When clients hold prejudices about ethnic minority officers, such as believing they are lazier, less capable or more unreliable than their white counterparts, this can translate into real-life discrimination, with clients asking for all white teams and excluding ethnic minority officers from employment opportunities.
Unconscious bias or implicit bias refers to unconscious attitudes and stereotypes that we form about members of a particular racial or ethnic group, which affect our understanding, actions, and decisions in an unconscious way. Psychological studies have shown that we’re unconsciously more likely to have a favourable view about members of our own ethnicity, which has real-life implications in recruitment and the workplace, especially in an industry that’s predominately white. Affinity bias, for example, refers to the tendency to connect with others who share similar interests, experiences, and backgrounds to you. The result? The employer is more likely to hire someone who’s the same race or ethnicity as themselves.
While the exact number of licence holders with disabilities has not yet been published by the SIA, some data on their experience in the security industry has been recorded. Indeed, a 2015 study revealed that officers with disabilities were more likely to have had a negative experience of working in the security industry, with a third of respondents reporting a ‘slightly’ or ‘very negative’ experience in their security career. In addition to this, only 16% of officers with disabilities found it ‘very’ or ‘fairly easy’ to achieve career progression in the security sector and were overall more likely to have found it ‘very difficult’ to enter the profession in the first place.
While the SIA licensing applications are open to those with disabilities, there has been some controversy around the addition of physical intervention training to the Door Supervision qualification. This new rule requires door supervisors to be able to restrain a customer if necessary, causing the only wheelchair-using nightclub bouncer to lose their licence after 6 years of service.
On the issue of door supervision, SIA has this to say in their 2018 ‘A guide for disabled people’:
“To get this qualification you must do a physical demonstration of what you have learned about physical intervention. The training provider has a duty to make reasonable adjustments to enable disabled people to do this training, including the demonstration during the test. However, if the training provider feels that it cannot make reasonable adjustments, then you will not be able to get the qualification and so cannot become a door supervisor.”
When discussing how to encourage greater diversity and inclusion in the security sector for people with disabilities, the SIA highlighted the following areas for improvement:
There’s a lot more to security guarding than just physical strength. A variety of competencies are needed to be a successful security officer, including great communication skills, theoretical knowledge, the ability to remain calm in stressful situations and customer service skills. Those particular abilities have nothing to do with physical strength but are just as vital for diffusing a potentially violent situation.
In the security sector, there are a variety of diverse roles available to those with an SIA licence. Although many qualified officers are employed as door supervisors, there are many other security roles available that do not require physical intervention, such as CCTV operators, cash and valuables in transit, key holding and store detective roles, as well as managerial and office roles.
‘But why do we even have to think about diversity? Just hire the best person for the job!”
As we’ve seen, it’s simply not that easy. While ‘protected characteristics’ are protected by law, societal biases and stereotypes about certain groups still exist-and these attitudes can trickle into the recruitment processes. For many businesses, striving for greater diversity and inclusion is now a cornerstone of their company values and employment policy. While some people may dismiss these measures as pure ‘political correctness’, a diverse workforce can actually bring a plethora of tangible benefits to a business, including:
Beyond these general considerations (and the fact that a diverse workforce is great from an equal opportunities perspective), hiring a diverse range of security officers also makes a security company considerably more versatile and adaptable for clients, allowing businesses to cater to a greater variety of business needs. Not every business will be looking for that stereotypical security officer from 20 years ago- white, male and without a disability. A diverse workforce can service a diverse clientele, and, with Britain’s population more inclusive than ever, is definitely a factor that businesses should consider.
At Churchill Security, diversity and inclusion are so much more than buzzwords- they’re a way of life, firmly rooted into the very DNA of the company. Diversity, fairness, and equal opportunities are all supported throughout working life here at Churchill. From recruitment to promotions policy, we are constantly aiming to further involve and consult with employees to make sure that everyone, regardless of gender, race, age, disability or any other ‘protected characteristic’, feels valued, included, and listened to at our company. As a security company, we not only want to offer protection and support to our clients but also to our employees, ensuring their emotional, physical and mental wellbeing is a top priority for the company and that those with additional needs or requirements have the support and tools they need to really excel here at Churchill. As a whole, the security sector has a long way to go before it can be considered truly diverse. Every company has a part to play in making the security sector a welcoming and inclusive place to work; encouraging and supporting officers and employees from all walks of life is certainly a good place to start.
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