Women’s afternoon tea

by Mark Rowe

Tributes were paid to Baroness Ruth Henig at the Women in Security (WiS) Awards afternoon tea yesterday, at the Birmingham NEC Metropole, writes Mark Rowe.

The latest WiS event was on the eve of International Women’s Day. The former chair of the Security Industry Authority, and a WiS judge, Baroness Ruth Henig was due to attend, but died last week, aged 80. WiS patron Una Riley asked those gathered outside Birmingham to raise a glass. Una said: “She [Henig] would have loved today. She’s a massive loss. She was a good friend, professionally and privately.” Una and other speakers were compered by Sarah Jane Cork of City Group Security. A raffle in aid of Women’s Aid Luton raised £2000; the refuge’s CEO Gaby Price spoke briefly about the refuge and how the need for them is ‘higher than ever’, compounded by the cost of living crisis and the covid pandemic.

To briefly introduce some of the other speakers: from the event sponsor, the body worn camera company Halo Technologies, the CEO Fiona Shanley joined last summer from a tech background. Nermina Webster, a solicitor who set up Business Loss Prevention, qualified in family law; the final speaker, the chief of the Security Industry Authority (SIA) Michelle Russell, also mentioned her legal background. Julie Nel, chair of the Security Institute, set up her consultancy after a career in the police; Sarah Hayes, who also spoke at last month’s UK OSPAs conference, is HR director at Securitas UK.

Men there too

Men were there also: Association of Security Consultants chair Gary Thomas, BSIA chief Mike Reddington, and Worshipful Company of Security Professionals senior warden Michael Thwaites, and Simon Pears representing the industry association IPSA to name four. That the gathering was largely female (a rare occurrence, one speaker noted) did give the event a different feel. At the risk of spouting cliche (although one speaker did state that ‘men are from Mars, women are from Venus’), the setting did let speakers and other women alike feel free to admit to the reality of being a woman in security (awkwardness on entering a room or a meeting of mostly, or all men) or indeed life generally (social anxiety or nerves).

A security industry, like the country at large, that has changed outwardly and in social attitudes greatly in our time, but leaving a sense, more easily sensed or articulated than carried out, that more progress can and should be made. A security industry that continues to be about ten per cent female (whether going by SIA figures for licence holders, or more anecdotally) and that is typically (to quote one speaker) ‘a sea of men’s faces, generally of a certain age’. Meaning the security industry feels like (to quote the same speaker) ‘a baptism of fire’ to enter, no matter how long and distinguished a woman’s work beforehand.

More in the April print edition of Professional Security Magazine.

Next event: golf

While some of those gathering stayed on into the evening, sadly sitting outside was not an option in the chilly Midlands. WiS organisers will hope for warmer weather for the next WiS event, a golf day on Thursday, May 16, at The Belfry. That follows an initial golf day at the same Midlands venue last summer, as featured in the October print edition of Professional Security Magazine. You’re curious about golf but unsure how to try it, or unwilling to enter another male space? Hence the WiS event, to give a taste of the pastime. You don’t have to turn up with any equipment or experience of playing. Even if you aren’t that interested in golf, organisers will welcome you – the day is as much about having a good time in good company. Any queries, email the organiser Liz Lloyd, [email protected].

Deadline for entry in the 2024 WiS Awards is August 9; the awards ceremony is in London on September 12.

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