Managing Editor, IFSEC Insider

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James Moore is the Managing Editor of IFSEC Insider, the leading online publication for security and fire news in the industry.James writes, commissions, edits and produces content for IFSEC Insider, including articles, breaking news stories and exclusive industry reports. He liaises and speaks with leading industry figures, vendors and associations to ensure security and fire professionals remain abreast of all the latest developments in the sector.
June 9, 2023


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IFSEC Interviews

“Assumptive language can create a pressurised environment for the LGBTQ+ community” – In conversation with Gavin Wilson

Now 15 years into a career in security, Gavin Wilson has recently been appointed as Co-Chair of The Rainbow Group – the initiative representing the LQBTQ+ security community. In his day job, Gavin is also Strategic Partnerships Director at The Keyholding Company.


Gavin Wilson, Strategic Partnerships Director, The Keyholding Company

In an interview with IFSEC Insider in May, Gavin shared his experiences of being gay in the security industry and why it’s so important to be your true self – no matter what your background or identity. Gavin offers his thoughts on how organisations can be more inclusive and why language is so important to developing a welcoming environment.


IFSEC Insider (II): Gavin, thanks for chatting with us and sharing your story. Do you want to start by giving us a little background into yourself and your experience in the security industry?

Gavin Wilson (GW): Of course. As I know many others have, I started in the security sector by accident really, but I haven’t left since! I began with a sales role at RISCO, moving my way up and then eventually across to a regional position at CSL, where I learnt more about the world of alarm signalling.

Just over a year ago I then moved from Pyronix across to work for The Keyholding Company, where I still am today. We’re a tech-enabled security company, offering national keyholding and alarm response, plus many additional services such as mobile patrols, vacant property checks and guarding.

II: And outside of the day to day, you’ve just become involved in the Rainbow Group at the Security Institute, is that right?

GW: So, I was super privileged to be asked, really. The launch of the Group by Satia [Rai] and Mel [Hipwood] has had some huge success, especially with the involvement in Pride last year which was the first time the private security industry has been a part of the movement.

I think it’s a really positive step for the industry and I’m keen to be part of that and continue the mission statement of “Making the Security Sector a great place to work for Rainbow+ staff”.

The underlying message of ‘what you can’t see you can’t be’ is something I really believe in.

II: And during your time, what has been your experience of being part of the LGBTQ+ community in the sector?

GW: It’s been quite broad actually, in terms of different experiences. I’m in a good position now, in a comfortable relationship, having been in the security industry for 15 years and working in a company with a really inclusive culture.


The 2022 Pride event in London was the first time a group from the security sector had taken part in the celebrations

But I still think back to those early days, where I found it harder, especially when I see young people joining the sector. To be talking openly about diversity and inclusion is really important because the message will reach them, and that can only be a positive thing.

The Keyholding Company really sees ED&I as one of its core values and encourages everyone to have their own voice and individuality. It’s taken some time, but we’re beginning to see others doing that now as well – it’s especially important for some of the bigger companies to step up and apply initiatives in this space as it helps set the example.

II: Have you had negative experiences, or are there specific experiences that particularly stick out?

GW: I’d say there’s never been one individual moment, but sadly a lot of smaller moments.

It’s rarely been intentional with someone being specifically horrible because I’m gay, but it’s the assumptive language used that happens regularly, and still does today.

It’s simple things that you might not think about, like when starting at a new company being asked whether you have a girlfriend – the assumption being that you’re a straight man. While this might seem small, over a long period of time and regular interactions it can create quite a pressurised environment.

When I was much younger, I just used to reply ‘no’ – which technically wasn’t a lie – but I wouldn’t necessarily challenge it. But over time it does have an impact.

II: So a lot of it is about language then?

GW: Exactly. It’s just about being more open and inclusive with what you’re saying or asking. So asking whether someone has a ‘partner’, rather than being specific, as there’s no assumption on sexual orientation there.

We actually run quarterly values sessions at The Keyholding Company, and one of the sessions we covered recently was about micro aggressions. In essence, these are tiny behaviours or uses of language that often just need to be rephrased to become more open and inclusive.

It’s also about everyone taking ownership of shared values – it shouldn’t have to fall on the minority group, whoever that might be, to call it out.

At the same time, it’s important there’s not a ‘villainising’ culture that’s created from calling these things out. We don’t want people to stop talking and having conversations, so it’s about doing it in the right way. You can usually tell when it’s an honest mistake.


Gavin speaks highly of the quarterly Values sessions that The Keyholding Company runs for its mostly remote workforce

It took me a while to feel comfortable calling people out, and it still remains a judgement call.  I was at a work event only last week where I overheard people I’ve known for years making gay jokes amongst themselves – I felt a bit sad and very frustrated when I got home that day for not being brave enough to call them out!

If there’s someone consciously making a decision to be derogatory, that needs to be shutdown by everyone. Again, this has to come from those around them as much as everyone else.

And sadly, there are still people who you’ll come across whose mind you won’t change. In all honesty, my advice with those sorts of people is don’t waste your breath. They’re few and far between fortunately, but you don’t need to have a relationship with someone you don’t feel comfortable with – be it personal or professional.

II: How can organisations encourage a more inclusive environment? What’s your current company doing, for instance?

GW: I’m very lucky to work for a company that has diversity and inclusivity as a mindset from the very top. We’ve got a 50% female executive leadership team, and we run quarterly sessions as I mentioned based in different cities around the UK – this means everyone can join at some stage as a lot of us are remote workers.

Sometimes it’s just a couple of sessions, sometimes it’s a full day. What’s great is we’re not shy on consulting experts and hearing from them, as well as making sure we hear from minority groups.

Personally, I’ve created an internal ‘Pride’ Slack channel for anyone in the business to join and ask questions, and we also post weekly employee spotlights. Ultimately, it’s encouraging that message to bring your whole self to work and feel valued, whoever you are. I think this kind of thing is especially important with so many people working remotely now.

TheKeyholdingCompany-23You can even do things that are more inclusive when running company-wide events. You just need to diversify from what might have been the traditional functions like going to the pub or playing golf. I’m not saying you need to stop doing these things, but maybe think about making activities more varied so that everyone feels they can get involved.

II: Just to go back to the Rainbow Group. You mentioned you’ll be attending Pride again this year in London in July – why is the event so important to the LGBTQ+ community in your opinion?

GW: I won’t speak for the whole community, but for me it’s just such an honest celebration of love, friendship and community which is incredible to be part of.

Pride events are a celebration of how far we’ve come, but also a gentle reminder that there is still a long way to go. We’re still on a journey to move things in the right direction and make things better for everyone.

And it’s an open invite to everyone – it’s not just for the LGBTQ+ community! Inclusivity really is at the heart of Pride.

II: Finally, what’s your advice to others in the LQBTQ+ community who might still feel uncomfortable in the security sector – or perceive the sector to not be the right place for them?

GW: I truly believe that any young LGBTQ+ person should be able to see themselves working in our industry.

I’d firstly start with when you’re joining a new company, don’t be afraid to ask the questions. What schemes, initiatives or groups do they have or encourage? What’s the diversity split like?

You’ll quickly spot if it’s not on their radar. It’s not about holding anyone to account, but never forget an interview is as much for you as it is for them.

Try not to be what you think they want you to be – be yourself. Have those honest upfront conversations because it’s only in those spaces where I think you will really blossom and grow. The right businesses will see that and snap those people up if they want to attract the best talent.

The security sector is screaming out for talent at the moment, so organisations need to be inclusive and open to fill the gaps.

This article is part of IFSEC Insider’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusivity series in fire and security – read more articles in the series here >>


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