March 8, 2023


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Diversity, Equity & Inclusivity

International Women’s Day: Female leaders in security & fire speak out in support of gender equality

International Women’s Day celebrates the achievements of women and calls for the acceleration of gender parity across the globe. Taking place on 8 March each year, IFSEC Global asked some female leaders in security and fire safety to share their thoughts on the day and how much progress the sector has made towards achieving gender equality.


Yolanda Hamblen, IFPO Board Member & ED & I Lead

What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

“The day is a global celebration of the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. It provides an opportunity for women to celebrate their achievements ­– as well as to demand further action.

“However, the day is also a reminder of the ongoing challenges women face. Women are underrepresented in leadership positions, and gender pay gaps persist in many countries. We need to lift each other up more.

“Having men publicly support and show solidarity with women’s journey is the sweet spot. This isn’t a conversation we can have on our own: we need strong male allyship in this journey to equality.

“For me, International Women’s Day is a powerful reminder of the strength and resilience of women everywhere.”

Where do you think we are with gender equality in the sector?

“In private security, women make up just 11% of the workforce. The lack of flexible working and family-friendly policies which can make it difficult for women to balance their work and personal responsibilities is a key issue.

“Working in security can require long and unpredictable hours, as well as a high degree of physical fitness and resilience. This makes balancing family life – often as the primary caregiver – almost impossible.

“Gender equity is more than tokenism. It’s more than sounding great in bid presentations or ‘adding value’. It should be an honest and transparent reflection of society and its values of respecting equality.”

Hayley Burgess, Director, HB Safety Consultancy

HayleyBurgess-22What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

“For me, International Women’s Day is a day to celebrate the achievements of women in the fire sector.

“As a female fire engineer working in a predominantly male environment, the day provides the opportunity to raise awareness of the amazing role models working in the fire sector – just look at Dame Judith Hackitt!

“International Women’s Day also gives me the opportunity to raise the profile of fire safety and engineering and the amazing opportunities available to girls who are considering their future careers.”

Where do you think we are with gender equality in the sector?

“In my opinion, there has been huge progress in gender equality in the fire sector. This is evidenced through, for example, female representation on the Board of Directors of Professional Fire Organisations – I’m a Trustee Director of the Institution of Fire Engineers (IFE).

“However, there is an element of unconscious gender bias in the fire sector, and although clear progress is evident, there is still a way to go until we can be 100% sure women going on site won’t be asked if they are there to make the tea!

“Or, as in my case at a recent meeting being told, ‘we are waiting on the fire engineer’ to which I answered, ‘that would be me!’”

Satia Rai, Chief Executive Officer, International Professional Security Association

What does International Women’s Day mean for you? 

“For me, every day is International Women’s Day, and that’s about celebrating all women across the globe – including their hard work and contribution to society. It’s about the remembrance and reflection of our struggles, being part of an inclusive society and a call to action for accelerating women’s equality.

“The day focuses on celebrating the communities women nurture and help to grow. It’s about women empowering each other, being their true selves and celebrating their accomplishments.

“My mother and partner are my biggest inspirations. For me, International Women’s Day is about celebrating, loving and caring for them, as well as being there and appreciating them – every day.”

Where do you think we are with gender equality in the sector? 

“The sector is made up of approximately 10% women. Good progress has been made in the last 10 years, however, there is so much more we can do. The annual Women in Security Awards play a part, and the newly formed Women in Security Academy will also have a positive impact on attracting and retaining female talent.

“We need women represented across all levels: in frontline, management and leadership roles. This can be achieved by celebrating our existing female workforce, sharing their stories and ensuring equal pay. Everyone can play a part.

“Collectively, as a sector, we can all forge positive change, not just on International Women’s Day ­– but every day. We need to work towards creating a more diverse sector, where inclusivity becomes the norm.”

Katie Lowe, Director, KL Connections

KatieLowe-23What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

“To me, it’s all about awareness for women everywhere in all capacities and to acknowledge and celebrate their achievements in making a more diverse world. To encourage women into different types of careers – particularly engineering – and help make a positive change.

“I have just been to a Women in Fire Engineering Conference and it was so inspiring. I can honestly say that when women support each other, then great things happen!”

Where do you think we are with gender equality in this sector?

“I think we are definitely getting there. When I first entered the fire engineering industry as a recruitment consultant there were literally a handful of women engineers. Now, 16 years later, there is a huge difference. I am part of a women in fire network and there are 900 members!

“Yes, fire engineering is a very male-dominated industry, but there is so much potential for women in this sector too. It’s very encouraging and I believe it will only get better.”

Andrea White, Managing Director, AW Fire Ltd

What does International Women’s Day mean for you?

“The theme for International Women’s Day 2022 was #BreaktheBias. This theme has particular meaning for me and for our industry after the publication of Nazir Afzal’s independent review of culture in the London Fire Brigade.

“On 8 March, Women Talking Fire will be celebrating women in the fire safety industry, raising awareness of gender bias and highlighting the benefits of allyship.”

Where do you think we are with gender equality in the sector?

“Fire safety is a male-dominated industry. I am delighted with the success of the Women’s Networking Group, which I founded in 2021. The inaugural in-person conference in February showed the need for such events and I am looking forward to organising more conferences for women in our industry through a new Community Interest Company: Women Talking Fire.

“The conferences and the LinkedIn group offer women support and inspiration. Feedback from conference delegates revealed that 100% of respondents would attend a similar women’s conference annually. One delegate wrote, “Thank you for showing me that I’m not the only one experiencing issues; thank you for validating my feelings”.

“At some point, my hope is that women’s groups in our industry will become redundant. But for now, the consensus is that such groups are very much wanted and needed.”

Claire Blakemore, Managing Director, Mul-T-Lock

What does International Women’s Day mean for you?

ClaireBlakemore-MulTLock-23“For me, International Women’s Day is a reminder for everyone – men and women – to not only ‘talk the talk’, but to also ‘walk the walk’ in working towards equality.

“It’s a time for all of us to reflect on the achievements of the generations that came before us, understand our own responsibility in the present, and actively inspire and empower the next generation.

“The diverse and successful communities that are celebrated on International Women’s Day remind me that while we may have a long way to go before we have a fully equal society. We are stronger working together than we will ever be apart!

Where do you think we are we with gender equality in the sector?

“Women in the security industries have made some positive strides, but much more needs to be done to close the gender gap.

“Women are still ‘put off’ by entering what are perceived to be very male-dominated industries, and the day is a great opportunity for women in the industry to shine and celebrate their achievements.

“It is also a fantastic way to encourage more women to enter the industry and a platform to showcase the many varied and exciting opportunities the sector has to offer. ASSA ABLOY has targeted to have 30% of its leading positions held by women by 2025 and has a dedicated female digital engineering course to help women kickstart a career in the industry.

“There is so much more that can be done to help inspire the next generation coming into our industry. By working together, we can achieve equal representation and voice.”

Francesca Boeris, Managing Director, Comelit-PAC

What does International Women’s Day mean for you?

“I look forward to the day when it’s no longer needed. When regardless of gender, age, race or religion, we reach our goals and are recognised inclusively, based on our own individual ability.

“But we’re not there yet.

“International Women’s Day represents an opportunity to amplify women’s voices in contexts they aren’t usually heard. It is also a day to remind ourselves to actively uplift, support and motivate one another. And to acknowledge, celebrate and honour women around the world for the contributions we are making to society.”

Where do you think we are we with gender equality in the sector?

“Across the industry, security is still very male-dominated. Although it is progressing on its journey of balanced representation – with highlights including the Professional Security Magazine Women in Security Awards and the Women in Fire Safety initiative – it can be quite traditional in its outlook.

“This pervasive culture can be tackled by celebrating the contribution that women are making and inspiring the next generation.

“The skills gap still presents a real challenge across security, technology, engineering and manufacturing. As we saw most recently during Apprenticeship Week, ensuring that we are drawing from the full talent pool, regardless of gender (or indeed any other identities/characteristics) is critical.

“Starting with this career outlook, our industry can build in further opportunities for permanent and growing involvement of women at all levels and all days of the year.”

International Women’s Day 2023 takes place on Wednesday 8 March each year.

Have a listen to our podcast interview with Letitia Emeana, UK Chapter Chair of ASIS UK, from 2022, where we also discussed the importance of growing female representation in the security sector…


Listen to the IFSEC Insider podcast!

Each month, the IFSEC Insider (formerly IFSEC Global) Security in Focus podcast brings you conversations with leading figures in the physical security industry. Covering everything from risk management principles and building a security culture, to the key trends ahead in tech and initiatives on diversity and inclusivity, the podcast keeps security professionals up to date with the latest hot topics in the sector.

Available online, and on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and Google Podcasts, tune in for an easy way to remain up to date on the issues affecting your role.


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