A Turning Tide for Women in Security?
Kendra Partlow, a senior security officer with ABM UK's retail division, says the security industry is beginning to acknowledge the importance of gender balance in creating strong security teams.
Since the summer of 2016, Meghan Markle’s every move has come under intense public scrutiny, with her decision to appoint a female head of security receiving extensive press coverage. Meghan’s choice of security officer follows the examples set by the Duchess of Cambridge and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall - and also suggests a groundswell of change in an industry that has traditionally been male-oriented.
Megan's decision to opt for a female security officer is also an inspiration for Kendra Partlow who works as a senior security officer with ABM UK and first took a job in the sector after working in a warehouse.
She explains: “When I saw an opportunity to work in the security team at a busy shopping centre in Doncaster, I jumped at the chance. It was clear from the outset that it came with serious responsibility, but equally, I was excited about breaking a bit of a barrier - I was the only woman on the team and couldn’t wait to get stuck into the day to day alongside my male counterparts.”
Despite pressures associated with joining an existing, all-male security team, Kendra admits that, despite being confident in her ability, she was nervous her new colleagues and shopping centre visitors would have preconceived ideas that she would be a soft-touch and less able because of her gender.
The realities have been very different, however, as she reports joining a male security team is already making a positive difference:
“Every so often I get a shopper pushing their luck because I’m female, but I’ve come to realise that being a woman places me in a fundamental role. For example, I can perform searches on females, while offering an additional level of understanding and empathy to certain situations.”
Although Kendra is now in a senior position, she can identify challenges that are still present in her role.
“Verbal abuse is commonplace and can become very personal", she says. "A thick skin and the ability to focus on the job in hand is key. I learnt very quickly how important it is to brush off derogatory comments", she says.
It is clear that the changing face of the security industry is in turn strengthening it and a team with a good gender balance is far more efficient in the case of an incident. For example, “If there’s a disturbance, or incident in a shopping centre whereby a woman has to be searched, all-male teams have to wait for emergency services to conduct searches or apply any physical restraint.” Having female security personnel based on site reduces the risk of incidents escalating, ensuring that other shoppers will have less exposure to the incident and keeping their visit to the shopping centre positive.
“There’s no such thing as a normal day or set roles and responsibilities for men or women in security. You never know what’s coming your way. It could be a tricky situation whereby shoplifters become aggressive or kids get rowdy, but equally it can be someone going into labour, or helping someone in need", Kendra adds.
" Sometimes it’s incredibly humbling, and you feel proud to be a part of people’s experiences.”
As part of her training, ABM UK enrolled Kendra in their brand ambassador training programme which is designed to integrate her into the client’s team covering everything from sales and services to on-site and community events. This training programme successfully prepares ABM employees to offer the best customer service at their site, giving them the tools to go above and beyond their role and placing them at the heart of the guest experience.