Friday Interview: Some say security ‘isn’t an industry for women with nice nails’ – they should think again
Think ‘security guard’ and the first image that probably springs to mind is a stocky, brooding male standing sentry outside an industrial facility or construction site. The security industry is widely perceived as a man’s world, and the gender composition of the vast majority of firms in the industry bears this out. However, one award-winning Nottinghamshire-based company has set out to change the narrative around gender and security by highlighting the substantial advantages of greater women’s involvement in the industry, as well as the benefits of building a more ethnically diverse team.
Global security solutions provider Octavian Security – a division of the award-winning multi-service Octavian Group – is a unique player in an industry dominated by men. The fast-growing company’s leadership team includes a mix of women and men, with managing director Reshma Sheikh and commercial director Amanda Butler leading the Board. Women also form a large part of the Bingham-based firm’s workforce, and Butler insists that this, along with the ethnically diverse profile of Octavian’s staff, gives the company a dynamism that sets it apart from its competitors.
“Somebody recently told Reshma, our MD, that ‘security isn’t an industry for women with nice nails’”, says Butler.
“We found the comment amusing, but we could just as easily have been insulted! The inference was that security is an industry only for those who are willing to get their hands dirty – that it is a tough, dangerous and primarily masculine job. We reject the idea that having nice, manicured nails and the vital work of protecting businesses and livelihoods has to be mutually exclusive. Why can’t a woman with manicured nails run or work for a security business? The idea that they can’t is outdated in 2021.
“Our USP is that we are female-led, and not only female but from a minority ethnic background”, she adds. “Our management team is a fabulous blend of male and female and we believe that our contrasting life experiences give us the best mix to challenge what is perceived as ‘normal’ in the industry. It has allowed us to create a company with high levels of staff retention compared to the industry standard, and has also enabled us to bring creative, solution-based ideas to the table which complement our clients’ objectives.”
Feedback from Octavian’s clients shows that there are several distinct advantages to the company’s approach.
So what has been the key to the firm’s success?
Attention to detail
“It can be argued, rightly or wrongly, that attention to detail is very much a female characteristic”, says Butler.
“By paying very careful attention to detail at every level, we are able to deliver bespoke services for every client, every time.”
Disparaged as a buzz word in some quarters, ‘emotional intelligence’ perhaps isn’t the first concept many would associate with the security industry, but Butler says it should be taken more seriously,
“Emotional intelligence is not just a meaningless buzz word,” she says.
“In terms of key decision making it is increasingly being seen as more influential than IQ. Self-awareness, how you regulate your personal behavior, your ability to interact with others and how you empathise are all key parts of any client relationship, in any industry. However, in security, possessing emotional intelligence seems to ‘buck the trend.’ It sets Octavian apart as a company, and it explains why our clients stick with us. We’ve built a reputation for taking the time to understand our clients on an individual level, and we deliver what we say we’re going to deliver, simple as that. It all stems from the emotional intelligence of our leadership team.”
Foregrounding equality and diversity
“Because we place such a great emphasis on equality and diversity – in terms of ethnic background as well as gender – we are able to help our clients achieve their own diversity spend targets”, says Butler.
“In fact, taking into account the relationship building that goes hand in hand with this, it goes above and beyond targets. We help our clients to change their entire culture.”
Butler says the diversity of Octavian’s workforce plays a large part in its rounded approach to security solutions.
“We are proud to have female officers as part of our front line team”, she says.