Realizing the Diversity Dividend in Corporate Security

· DEI,ASIS,Diversity

“We know that… diverse teams are stronger teams. They make better business decisions, they focus more on the facts and remain objective, they process those facts more carefully, they are more innovative, and they deliver stronger results.”  
Nick Lovrien, CSO, Meta – writing on LinkedIn 

The changing environment for corporate security 

There has never been a harder time to work in corporate security. Corporations are operating in the most complex and fast-moving threat environment we have ever seen. They are having to adopt how they operate as a result of remote working, lowering trust, digital transformation, the explosion of data, and the rise of ESG, to name but a few. 

Boards are asking their corporate security teams to find creative solutions to keep the business safe, and as the economic outlook remains bleak, they are tasked with doing more with less.  

Within this context, the business case for diversity within corporate security has never been more compelling; diverse teams, especially those with diverse leadership, have higher levels of innovation and productivity are less prone to group think and more able to think creatively. In other words, they are uniquely well-placed to drive the kinds of innovation we need in corporate security.  

Thanks to generous support from the ASIS Foundation, The Clarity Factory conducted research on the state of diversity, equity and inclusion within corporate security. We interviewed almost two dozen Chief Security Officers (CSOs) and a range of corporate security professionals, and conducted a global survey of survey practitioners.  

Corporate security has started its DE&I journey but still has a long way to go 

Corporate security starts from a low base: data from SMR Group showed that 94 percent of their candidates for security, risk and resiliency roles globally were men, and 70 percent came from a former government background. None of the CSOs we interviewed felt a government background is necessary for corporate security roles – so there is great potential to diversify. 

Collective wisdom: Getting more diverse talent into corporate security – diversity  

The CSOs we interviewed understand the business case for diversity and many are implementing practices to bring more diverse candidates into the function, with varying degrees of success and progress.  

Our research points to the following practices for corporate security functions: 

  • Use data to establish a baseline on diversity, measure progress and hold colleagues accountable  
  • Conduct outreach to a more diverse range of schools and universities, and partnership you’re your Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) 
  • Make the recruitment process more inclusive through rethinking role profiles, using inclusive language in job descriptions, advertise in non-traditional places, mandate diverse candidate slates, use diverse interview panels and blind marked assessments 
  • Provide support and challenge for hiring managers to help them improve recruitment  
  • Offer internships to enable diverse candidates at entry level to gain work experience 

Rewarding Talent: Ensuring all talent can rise equitably through the function – equity  

Getting diverse talent into the function is the first challenge, but it’s then essential to ensure all team members have a fair chance to progress.  

Our survey suggests minorities working within security are more likely to feel they have experienced discrimination: sixty percent of women compared to 22 percent of men, 60 percent of LGBTQIA+ versus 33 percent heterosexual, 48 percent non-Caucasian versus 34 percent Caucasian, 59 percent of disabled participants as opposed to 34 percent of those able bodied, and 52 percent neurodiverse compared to 34 percent of those who are not neurodiverse.  

Our research points to the following practices for corporate security functions: 

  • Use metrics to track progress and hold managers accountable 
  • Provide training for managers in conducting reviews and promotions 
  • Offer equal access to career development enhancing opportunities  
  • Identify routes for progression for the intelligence function to transition – it is a diverse cohort but struggles to transition into mainstream security roles 

Unlocking the Diversity Dividend: Inclusive work environments – inclusion  

Inclusion is the bedrock for long-term success because inclusive workspaces enable everyone to operate to their best ability.  

Belonging scores are high overall for corporate security professionals; 80 percent of survey respondents agreed or strongly agreed with the statement, ‘I feel like I belong at my organization,’ but agreement was less strong for minorities working within corporate security. 

Our research points to the following practices for corporate security functions: 

  • Model leadership on inclusion and allyship 
  • Use data to understand levels of inclusion and belonging within the function 
  • Use specialist and dedicated resources, including staff time, ERGs and inclusive onboarding 
  • Run learning programs, including reverse mentoring 

Brand Security: Driving innovation across the industry 

While there is much that corporate security departments can do, we need a whole of industry approach to DE&I. The image of the industry influences the candidates HR colleagues and recruitment consultants bring forward, along with the kinds of people who see security as a viable career choice.  

Security membership organizations have tremendous influence on the image of our industry. They decide who gets profiled through speaking platforms and volunteer leadership positions. Their events help to set the tone for norms of behavior within the industry. They have the potential to be force multipliers for good, but the vast majority of survey respondents did not feel they are doing enough to address DE&I. 

Our research points to the following practices for security industry membership organizations: 

  • Collect data to understand their members and gather input and feedback on DE&I efforts 
  • Revise talent spotting and selection processes to ensure diversity within boards and leadership  
  • Use programing to enhance DE&I within the industry, including diversity of speakers, rules on entertainment at events, instigating and implementing codes of conduct, offering safe spaces for discussions about DE&I, ensuring fair approaches to awards, running programs for members on reverse mentoring, and promoting and supporting DE&I networks 
  • Play an active role in wider industry branding efforts, such as campaigns and career pathways  

DE&I in corporate security – a whole of industry challenge 

There is still much work to be done on DE&I; there is a vocal minority against DE&I efforts, fears about getting things wrong cause paralysis, the industry is working with a persistent legacy of recruiting almost exclusively from former government services, and there remain disturbing stories of discrimination, sexual harassment and unprofessional behavior, which have no place in our industry.  

We need a whole of industry approach to DE&I, where CSOs lead the charge from within their organizations, membership organizations set the tone for appropriate behavior and platform all the talents, and each one of us assumes our responsibility to lean in, listen, learn and become an ambassador for the rights of every person working in corporate security. 

This is a mission-oriented industry full of dedicated professionals. If we focus, pull together and rise to the challenge, not only will we become a fairer and more equitable industry, we will be more productive, innovative and creative – fit for the challenge of delivering safety and security to the organizations we serve, today and in the future.  

This article is based on the Executive Summary of the report, Empowering Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Corporate Security, authored by Rachel Briggs OBE and Paul Sizemore of The Clarity Factory. 

You can read the full Executive Summary and the full report.