Women in Executive Protection
Although plenty of women enjoy the benefits of executive protection (EP), not many actually work in the field. And that’s a shame—because women have plenty to give in this growing industry. Following are four lessons I have learned from the real world as a woman working in executive protection.
WOMEN BRING A DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE (AND GO-BAG GEAR) TO EP.
And that’s a good thing. Looking at things differently has advantages in any situation, but it can be especially important when protecting a female client.
Case in point: Like most EP agents, I carry a “go bag” wherever I travel with a client. Of course, I always bring along my personal medical kit, phone chargers, and so forth. But I also add a few things that leave my male coworkers wondering: clear nail polish, super glue, and hair ties. Really? Yes, really. Clear nail polish is worth its weight in gold if a client gets a run in her pantyhose. Super glue is invaluable if a heel snaps. Hair ties? You always need an extra hair tie.
A lot of men in EP think that it’s not our job to take care of little things like these—that they distract from the core mission to keep the client safe and secure. I’d like to add a few things to our job description as EP professionals. Beyond keeping clients safe, it’s also up to us to make sure they stay happy and productive.
Carrying a bag with items someone might need helps across the board. In addition to reducing unproductive delays and preventing embarrassment or children’s tears, it also has security advantages: we don’t need to enter unknown areas for last-minute purchases. Women are more likely to consider these needs in advance.
WOMEN BLEND IN BETTER THAN MEN.
Two male coworkers and I once worked a detail for a family with small children. Whenever we advanced a location, our point of contact would invariably look at the men and ask what they needed to know for security purposes. After they toured us all around, they would ask me if I had any questions pertaining to the itinerary.
I told them I had no issues, but if they had any itinerary questions they should contact the assistant who was handling the schedule. “But aren’t you the assistant?” they’d blurt. This happens nearly every time I’m with a male coworker conducting an advance. Outsiders see them as the security detail and assume that I am the assistant.
While some may find this insulting, I use it to my advantage. It’s fine with me if people think I am the nanny or assistant. This prevents them from asking too many questions or getting anxious about why security is around. It helps me blend into the background. It’s also a welcome relief to clients who sometimes want to keep a low profile and just feel “normal” instead of being surrounded by security wherever they go.
WOMEN CAN GO PLACES MEN CAN’T.
I can easily walk into a women’s restroom to wash my hands and find out whether the client needs help or is just chatting with someone. There’s no need to awkwardly walk into the opposite sex bathroom and look around for the principal. It’s important that protective agents can sometimes be with the principal in bathrooms, dressing rooms, and hotel suites without being inappropriate. By not disrupting the client and by blending into surroundings, female agents raise fewer eyebrows and inspire less suspicion.
IT’S ALL ABOUT THE TEAM.
I have been extremely fortunate to work with an amazing group of people—mostly men, because there are very few other women working in the industry. The importance of having a good team cannot be exaggerated. EP is not a one-person show, it’s a team effort.
Coming into a new company and working with a new client can be daunting enough. If you have the added burden of proving your worth to male coworkers, it just gets harder.
Fortunately, all the men that I work with have been supportive, kind, and understanding of the struggles women have in the industry. They’ve helped me achieve my career goals. I have also been blessed with a team leader who works extremely hard to actualize the team. Encouraging and managing team diversity isn’t always easy, but it’s worth it. Better and stronger teams rely on each other, help each other, and support each other to keep our principals safe, productive, and happy.
It is possible to create amazing, cohesive teams that include both women and men. I hope that other women will find rewarding careers in EP with both male and female coworkers that encourage everyone on the team to grow.
Rachael Paskvan is an executive protection agent with AS Solution and a member of the ASIS San Francisco Bay Area Chapter.