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Illustration by iStock; Security Management

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Physical Security: Why It Matters

A lot of companies say all the right things about diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I), but when it comes to implementation, it’s easy to fall short.

For the most part, many companies struggle to fully mature their programs. In fact, only 22 percent of companies in an HR Research Institute report said their DE&I initiatives were in expert or advanced stages; and only 9 percent rated their initiatives as highly effective.

But that doesn’t mean that companies don’t engage in strategic planning with DE&I in mind. The same survey found that 44 percent of respondents said that DE&I initiatives play a significant role in strategic planning for the future.

Why DE&I Matters in Security

In physical security, there’s a business benefit for hiring diverse talent—especially since the industry is primarily composed of men. A quick, non-scientific review of security executives included in Security Magazine’s annual benchmarking report showed the top echelon of security professionals was at least 81 percent men in 2020. While this is not be a scientific assessment of the broader physical security space, the fact that there is little to no information about the diversity of the industry may be an indication that more attention needs to be paid to these initiatives.

But DE&I in physical security is more than just diversifying who is sitting in the executive seat. Diverse perspectives help broaden the scope of “what is safety” to more than one background or lived experience. For example, men may not think that a parking garage may not feel unsafe in a poorly lit parking garage, but a woman walking through the same facility may feel unsafe in the environment.

This has ramifications beyond risk decisions and company direction—DE&I can also affect security technology. When security practitioners are building a security platform based on artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, for example, DE&I means answering the questions:

  • Are our AI models biased to flag suspicion for a particular race?

  • Can we detect signs of sexual harassment or sexual assault?

  • Are there other security threats that have been significantly under-addressed because safety has been dictated from the eyes of a singular persona?

Where to Start

If you’re ready to start a DE&I initiative across your company, it can be difficult to initiate when it’s not something you’ve incorporated into your organization from the beginning. However, it’s important to begin with buy-in from leadership and a clear understanding of what DE&I means.

Here’s a breakdown:

Start with taking a look at what your industry looks like. Read reports, talk to other leaders, and determine what a typical composition might be. Then aim to set goals that go beyond the average.

Review your careers page. Taking a stance from the top-down is critical to ensuring your organization is embracing DE&I across the board. Communicate your hiring practices and focus on creating a diverse workforce on your careers or “about us” page so candidates understand the process.

Make a statement. On every job description, the author's organization has  a “C.A.R.E.” statement focused on the individual that communicates our philosophy for how we treat our employees and highlighting how committed we are to cultivating this environment. But don’t just say it; follow through from the hiring process to onboarding to ongoing support for historically underrepresented groups.

Streamline recruiting. If it makes sense, try to keep recruiting new talent in-house and source referrals from your own workforce. Look at your own listings to refine descriptions and make them more targeted. Avoid words that lean more masculine (assertive/driven/dominant) or feminine (compassionate/dependable/considerate). There are gender decoder software programs that can help with this, such as Gender Decoder by Kat Matfield or Textio. It’s also critical to communicate with candidates directly if you don’t hire them—this demonstrates respect for their time.

Be pay transparent. One way organizations can build equity is by establishing pay transparency. List salary ranges in the job description. Having a strict range for all positions is critical to the goal of equity because not following it for even just one person messes up the goal of reaching pay equity. A lapse might also cause individuals to lose the trust in the organization as a whole. Candidates typically respect this level of transparency, and it takes a lot of guesswork out of the negotiation process.

Think about ways to celebrate differences. Take time to celebrate uniqueness across your organization. Honoring celebrations—such as Pride, Black History, Hispanic Heritage, or Asian and Pacific Islander months—can help build stronger bonds between employees, encourage inclusivity, and allow employees to feel like they are able to be their true selves at work.

Focus on retention. Having a one-size-fits-all approach to retention can be a mistake when you’re trying to support individual differences, so keep that in mind when executing learning strategies and looking toward a person’s future with the company.

Beyond formal policies and procedures, it’s important that companies committed to DE&I build a culture of making people feel like they can be themselves, no matter what. There’s an element of vulnerability to that, and sometimes these conversations aren’t going to be perfect (and oftentimes they might even be uncomfortable). But building a workplace where people feel supported and seen is a critical piece of the puzzle when it comes to building a solution that keeps people safe. It starts from within.

Cameron Khani is head of talent for HiveWatch, a technology company reimagining how companies keep their people and assets safe. In his role, Khani is responsible for recruiting and hiring talent in line with the organization’s DE&I goals.