Una's blog

WiS awards 2019

by Mark Rowe

The Women in Security (WiS) awards just get better and better, writes Una Riley.

This year the event started with Alex Carmichael CEO, SSAIB, Roy Cooper, MD of Professional Security Magazine, and I greeting the guests as they arrived onboard the Dixie Queen, the large 19th century replica paddle steamer on the River Thames. It is such a fantastic venue that can be enjoyed whilst an ever-changing backdrop of London’s famous sights slowly drifts by as you partake of the good food and fine wine.

After we had welcomed everyone on board, we set sail and began to mingle prior to a dinner catered for us by a brigade of chefs and delightful serving staff. The host body of this year’s awards was the SSAIB. Alex Carmichael and I have known each other for many years and worked together on projects for the good of the profession here and on the Continent. He is a great guy and someone I significantly respect. So it was a pleasure once again, to work alongside him at this year’s awards.

Alex set the mood for the entire evening, his introduction was succinct and enlightening; he talked about the forthcoming 25th anniversary of the SSAIB (I remember the day it was launched) and briefly gave an outline of what the organisation is all about. The SSAIB was founded in 1994, it is a company limited by guarantee and operates on a not-for-profit basis. The SSAIB promotes high standards of service and is focused on serving the certification needs of organisations providing security and safety related services. He then praised the awards and spoke about their value which led to the start of a really fun evening.

Judging from the amount of entries we get I think that most people know what the awards are all about; but just in case: the WiS Awards are the security profession’s dedicated awards that recognise the accomplishments and contribution of women within the security profession. Baroness Ruth Henig, former chairman of the SIA and a founder judge remarked at the launch: “The WiS Awards will be known as the Oscars of the profession.” I think she is right. It is every bit as good as any red-carpet affair. However, like all events (the Oscars included) they would not be the same without sponsors. The sponsors that support this event are just amazing. They contribute to make the evening the ‘WOW’ occasion that it has become. IFSEC even sponsored a free bar…enjoyed by all I might say.

Of course, the main reason we were there was to champion all women in security and especially the finalists. Every year I say it…the nominations are the conformation of the recognition and contribution that women are making to the wider world of security. In 1985 when I started my technical security systems company, I dreamt that one day there would be other women in the room besides me.

When it came to attending meetings and then going on to Chair meetings, there were simply no other women around. In those days our industry was hailed as a male-dominated industry; but it was just that women had not yet decided to choose it as a career option. Now, it is very different. WiS is a testimony to that. Times have changed for the better, unlike in the past, I wanted to ensure that women now entering the industry were encouraged and recognised for their contribution to the profession. What better way of acknowledgment than for only the heads of industry lead bodies, CEO and chairman level to act as judges representing their organisation.

That is an important and vital factor, because it was not always that way. I wanted that strong message to resonate throughout the industry that women were supported at the highest level. I then needed an impartial platform to be the axis of the award, so I presented the framework to Professional Security Magazine…and the rest is history.

John Cully the publisher and Roy Cooper the Managing Director of Professional Security Magazine supported the idea instantly in 2011 and have made WiS the premier award in the UK world of security. Whether you are the Managing Director of your own security company, a security professional working within the security department of a commercial organisation, technical, business, public sector or working on the front line; we have five categories that should accommodate most sectors within the wider world of security.

Each year our judges consider how the nominee contributes to the security profession over and above her job spec and why in the view of the nominator the Nominee should win the award. The narrative is what the judges rely upon to enable them to make a judgement. So, it is essential that it is descriptive, factual and conveys a voice that appeals; also resonating with the ethos of contribution to the profession over and above the call of duty. This can be displayed in many ways for each of the categories.

This year the finalists were exceptional as ever and I do not envy the judges with their role…it is getting harder and harder due to the high calibre of entry.

This year the Security Manager Award went to Jennifer Ciolfi of the University of Dundee. Sara Stephenson of Sodexo won the Front-line category but was alas unable to be at the event, so Jane Farrell of Sodexo picked up the award on her behalf. The Business Manager category was won by Bernadette Duncan MBE, of AUCSO who was also unable to attend, and her award was picked up by Jennifer Ciolfi of Dundee.

The Technical category was won by Kiran Bhagotra from ProtectBox and last but not least Amanda McCloskey of CIS Security won the contribution to Industry category. I caught up with Amanda (pictured with Richard Jenkins of the NSI) and asked what she thought of the night.

She said: “Wow, what can I say about winning the award. I felt very privileged to have been nominated and shortlisted as a finalist in the first place, but to win is amazing! I have received so many truly lovely messages from my family, colleagues, clients, and industry associates. It really means a lot to me. I have a very strong work ethic which I inherited from my mum. I am very grateful to her for mentoring me through life and inspiring me to achieve! She used to say ‘Love Many, Trust Few, Always Paddle Your Own Canoe’, which has proven to be good advice for me in many situations.

“It is so humbling to receive such recognition. I woke up after the awards with a spring in my step and was in the office nice and early to get on with my day! I am looking forward to the next chapter in the security industry’s’ journey. I am honoured to be a part of the industry and look forward to playing an active part in its future, which I believe makes an outstanding contribution to our society. To have any influence on such positive change is something to be proud of!”

It sure is. It is great to see so many women in security now getting recognition for their contribution…I am also very proud to have established the awards to enable that to happen. I then asked one of the guests from the wider world of security, Jean Freeman, Managing Director, Sharp-aX Computer Systems. What did she think of the evening?

She said: “I felt privileged to be invited to the Women in Security Awards. The hospitality was awesome. As a businesswoman in IT, I was delighted to see so many young women receiving awards and being recognised for their contribution to the profession. Although, security has been considered a male dominated industry in the past…that can no longer be the case judging from this amazing event.”

The WiS really did have the ‘WOW’ factor and it was an amazing evening but without Professional Security Magazine, the judges and hosts and the sponsors the WiS Awards would never have been as successful as they now are; but most importantly it is the women that have made this award what it is. Our judges are selected from the very top of the UK leading professional organisations within the security industry. They include the Association of Security Consultants, ASIS UK Chapter, the British Security Industry Association (BSIA), the Fire and Security Association (FSA), the International Professional Security Association (IPSA), the National Security Inspectorate (NSI), the Security Industry Authority (SIA), the Security Institute, the Worshipful Company of Security Professionals and this year’s hosts the Security Systems and Alarms Inspection Board (SSAIB).

I would also like to finish by saying a personal ‘Thank you’ to the PSM Events Team and especially Roy Cooper for being the anchor of the event and to Liz Lloyd for all her hard work in making the venue look so special resulting in a magical evening enjoyed by all. Next year it is the turn of the Worshipful Company of Security Professionals (WCoSP) to host.

This is a very special security body to me. I was honoured with the title of ‘First Lady of the Company’ and until now was the only female Master to date. But next year when elected, there will be another female Master in the Chair, so it is very exciting that it also coincides with the WCoSP hosting the WiS Awards. Our venue (to be arranged) will be on terra firma and I already can’t wait for 2020.

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