Three myths preventing diversity in corporate security


  • There is widespread agreement that corporate security functions need to attract a diverse range of perspectives, skills, experiences, and outlooks to meet the challenges of today’s global business operating environment.
  • Many are making progress, but there is still a long way to go to ensure corporate security functions have the full range of skills and competencies.
  • Three key change management myths stand in the way of our efforts to diversify:
    • We fixate on the huge systemic barriers at the expense of immediate change.
    • We focus on individual rather than collective intelligence.
    • We approach change management via the head rather than the heart
  • Achieving diversity is possible – but if we want to be different, we have to do different: recruit differently, management differently, and lead differently. We can start doing different right now.


The challenges corporations face in the global operating environment – geopolitics, volatility, interconnected risks, permacrisis – require ever more nuanced analysis, intelligence, and an ability among risk functions to collaborate and join the dots. What’s more, security risks are increasing, and many corporate security professionals are being asked to do more with less; higher productivity is critical.

 All functions are adapting to changes within the business, too:

  • Forty percent of global CEOs say their company will not be economically viable in 10 years without substantive change to its business model: innovation is non-negotiable.
  • Digital transformation is fundamentally changing the way organisations work, and 60% of CEOs say it is the most important driver of growth: technology and digital skills are vital for all functions.
  • Data-driven decision making is critical; organisations classified as ‘data masters’ outperform their peers on almost every measure, and the C-Suite expects corporate security leaders to be data natives.
  • Generational change is impacting how work gets done as well as customer expectations, and impacts a security function’s ability to attract the best candidates.


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The watch words for all functions are innovation, productivity, effective decision making, collaboration and new skills. Diversity doesn’t just correlate with these things; it strongly correlates with them:

  • Teams with women in managerial and leadership positions have higher levels of disruptive innovation, exactly the type you need in the face of volatility and fast-paced change.
  • Increases in racial diversity by just one standard deviation has been shown to lead to 25% higher productivity in some sectors.
  • Diverse teams are less prone to group think, can harness all the talent on the team, and as a result, they produce better decisions than homogenous teams.
  • Teams that are more representative of their client-base are better able to align with their needs.
  • New skills, especially in technology, digital and data, are critical to effectiveness in any multinational corporation.

 Diversity is not just the right thing to do – it’s the smart thing to do.


Clarity Factory data shows that the argument on diversity within corporate security has been won; 85% of Chief Security Officers (CSOs) strongly agree that diversity makes corporate security teams more effective, and the sentiment is even more pronounced among security professionals under the age of 35.

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Many corporate security leaders acknowledge the need to increase gender diversity on their team, but there is considerable work still to do. Almost half of corporate security functions have teams comprised of fewer than 25% women, and only 7% have achieved gender parity.

The representation of women on leadership teams within corporate security functions is low. Two-fifths of CSOs have leadership teams where women comprise less than 10% of team members, and the proportion who are racially or ethnically diverse is similar.


One of the most-cited reasons for low gender diversity is the fact that corporate security teams draw heavily on professionals with former government experience, such as military, law enforcement, or intelligence, which themselves tend to have lower proportions of women within their ranks. More than half of all corporate security functions have teams comprising of at least 50% former government professionals, and almost one quarter of functions have teams where 70-100% come from this background.

The continued dominance of this background is surprising; a majority of CSOs say they do not consider this background to be essential, and a larger majority of security professionals under the age of 35 agree.

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 As part of an ASIS Foundation study conducted by The Clarity Factory, CSOs we interviewed struggled to name a role where this experience was critical to success, although a significant minority felt it was beneficial for country or regional security managers based in high-risk environments due to the importance of strong government networks.

There is a diversity disconnect: government background is cited as a blocker for diversity, a majority do not feel it is essential, and yet it continues to dominate hiring.


Corporate security functions must keep pace with technological change within their corporations. As part of a joint study with SI Placement on the future of talent in corporate security, we interviewed 25 CSOs, and almost said technology is the most important factor influencing their changing talent needs. 

Clarity Factory data suggests corporate security functions lag behind on technology skills. Two-thirds of CSOs surveyed said they do not have specialist technology skills within their function, such as software engineers, developers or coders; machine learning engineers; data scientists; agile coaches, technology product managers, or scrum masters; or human factors, or user experience or interface designers. It is vital that corporate security leaders prioritise technology skills when hiring and developing staff, so they can work as peers with other risk functions across the corporation.

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We are undoubtedly making progress on diversity within corporate security, but we still have a mountain to climb. Achieving diversity is a change management challenge – and change is always difficult. 

I observe three change management myths that are holding us back in our diversity efforts within the corporate security community.  


There are a number of systemic problems that explain our diversity challenge; it’s true we have an image problem that influences the types of people naturally attracted to the profession; it’s true that young people are generally not aware that corporate security exists as a career path; and it’s true the feeder recruitment pools that dominate are themselves not fully diverse.  

As Chip and Dan Heath argue in their seminal book on change management, Switch, when we are faced with change, we tend to over-focus on these big problems things at the expense of small, incremental steps we can take immediately that over time will result in sizeable transformation. They call these big problems ‘TBU: true but useless’. They are true – but they are useless to our change management efforts. Our over-focus on them is self-defeating.   

That’s not to say we shouldn’t make efforts to chip away at the industry’s image problem, but we shouldn’t do that at the expense of the immediate changes we can make today.  


One of the most common things I hear from CSOs struggling to achieve diversity is a variation on this: ‘I support diversity, but I need to hire the best person for the job.’ There are two problems with this statement.  

First, it assumes the full range of recruitment options has been explored, but it usually hasn’t. CSOs say former government experience is not critical, but that background continues to dominate. This suggests hiring managers are fishing in a smaller talent pool. One CSO I interviewed who has made significant progress on diversity told me that when his team brings a diverse candidate slate it is always a better candidate slate, because they have looked further, considered a broader range of candidates, and have worked harder at the search process. If you are fishing in a small talent pool, how can you be sure you are getting the best person for the job?

Second, it is underpinned by a false assumption about how work gets done. Most jobs are collaborative, and a large measure of the function’s effectiveness relates to the quality of its collaboration across the business. When hiring, leaders need to think as much about bench-strength as individual contribution, and must value pro-social skills alongside subject matter expertise.  

Research shows that collective intelligence is a better indicator of outcome than individual intelligence. The best teams are not the ones with the best thinkers, but the ones that unearth and use the best thinking from everyone.  


Change is hard; even when we know it is in our own best interest, we struggle to change because it’s new, it takes effort, we are unsure what to do, we are demotivated when we get things wrong, we are deflated when progress isn’t fast enough, it means going against the crowd, and it feels better to do what we know.  

One of the key reasons most change management efforts fail is because leaders focus on the head rather than the heart. They assume that the change process is analyse-think-change – but it’s see-feel-change.  

As important as it is to make the business case for diversity – the diversity dividend – this merely opens the door for change. To achieve lasting transformation, leaders must appeal to hearts as well as minds, based on an understanding of the emotional as well as practical barriers to change. As one CSO described, it’s important to have the data, but not to lead with it because it sets the wrong tone and makes it hard for the team to engage in a way that drives meaningful change.    

Change happens when you appeal to the heart, you understand the emotional reasons that people are resistant to change, and you bring people on a journey with you. That’s what makes change management so difficult. 


“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”  

Einstein is often credited with this quote, but regardless of its provenance, it is undoubtedly true. We can’t expect things to change without changing what we do.  

If you want to be different, you have to do different.

You have to:

  • Use different language in job descriptions so the roles are attractive to a broader range of candidates.
  • Recruit from different places so you uncover a broader range of people.
  • Recruit with different methods so the process allows everyone to flourish.
  • Offer different opportunities, such as internships or rotations, that make a wider range of people aware of corporate security.
  • Train managers to manage differently so they conduct equitable performance reviews and bring the best out of all team members.
  • Lead differently to enable all team members to do their best work. 


The global business operating environment and the inner workings of multinational corporations are changing. The new reality demands from corporate security more innovation, higher productivity, more nuanced insights to drive decision making, better collaboration across the business, and a new set of technology skills.  

Diversity is part of the answer for corporate security functions, and while many have made progress, change management efforts are hampered by common myths that prevail. We need to focus less on the systemic barriers – as important as they are – and more on the immediate steps that we can take today.  

Small change leads to big transformation. Everyday actions today will make tomorrow different. If we want to be different, we have to do different. If we do different, change is inevitable. 


For Clarity Factory data on diversity and talent, see:

The Business Value of Corporate Security: Sustainable commercial success through resilience, insight and crisis leadership in a volatile world. 

More information on The Clarity Factory and SI Placement joint study on the future of talent in corporate security 

For more on change management, see: