Diversity: what about the disabled and the LGBT community?
Chair: Martin Gill
Jane Farrell – Head of Security UK and Ireland at Sodexo
Arevika Stepanian – ASIS UK Board Director for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
Oliver Lincoln – UK Sales Manager, Securitas Security Services
Jane Farrell has been promoting diversity, first with regards to gender and latterly disability, for a decade, specifically in making the workplace more welcoming for different people. There are many engagement groups now focussing on raising awareness and helping to celebrate everyone’s contribution. Jane welcomes the regulator’s Handbook on disability, the growing recognition that the disabled are underrepresented in security but calls for more focus on the significant opportunities that exist but are not promoted. She questions whether many of the initiatives have the desired effect, namely in achieving change. Fair recruitment is key including changing the bias in the way interviews take place, but so is changing the macho image which still dominates perceptions of security, not least from those outside the sector and prevents it from being attractive to them.
Arevika Stepanian notes that increasingly companies are embracing diversity and benefiting accordingly. The fact is that in security not everyone is always welcome, and the police/military/masculine tradition does not help. Eleven million people in the UK have some form of disability but they are underrepresented in security. Moreover, the LGBTQ community fear discrimination and are concerned that they will receive negative comments from colleagues. Arevika calls for the appointment of employment champions and campaigns aimed at employees sharing concerns and highlighting the challenges they face. Training is vital but it must be meaningful; surveys of staff are key to increasing understanding; promoting a positive image needs to be internal and external; and leadership needs to lead on culture change such that wellbeing is recognised as a priority.
Oliver Lincoln notes that when he joined the security sector he was surrounded by white straight men and it can be intimidating. Coupled with that was the fear of coming out and the potential that it could result in being isolated. He calls for care in the language used at work (and the need to challenge positively); it conveys meaning and it matters. Oliver started to speak out and in doing so found a community; he is committed to ensuring others don’t need to suffer discrimination. He has found security to be a good industry but with a need to demonstrate that it is truly welcoming. There is an opportunity to attract a more diverse workforce. He underlines the importance of education and using inspirational stories; of providing a safe space; of thinking about LGBTQ advisors; of ensuring people feel valued and safe at work. Visible signs can be helpful, such as a lanyard. In a survey last year 14% said they were not heterosexual, the remainder included those who did not want to say but it means up to 14% of the workforce may feel isolated and there is a big opportunity here.
There is so much to be done, where do we start? Jane emphasised the importance of the industry taking a lead in redefining the security role and rendering security a more welcome home for more people. Areveka called for every company to appoint a wellbeing and EDI person with a passion to promote change. Oliver underlined the importance of taking action, this issue is not about ticking boxes, it is about harnessing an opportunity.
13th January 2022