Kim Martens-Thompson, Women in Security Liaison for ASIS International’s Dubai chapter, spoke exclusively to SecurityNewsDesk about why it is imperative to encourage more women into the security industry and bridge the gender gap in what is generally perceived to be a male dominated industry.
It is possible to measure the number of women in security or measure growth trends?
Figures representing women in security globally are extremely hard to measure; however, within ASIS International’s 38,000 global members, female membership is growing. This is a major area of focus for ASIS. 30% of our ASIS Chapters around the globe have a Women in Security Liaison.
Why is it important to bridge the gap?
Security, both traditional and cyber, is one of the fastest growing sectors in the world. The needs of today’s security industry are quite different from those of 1996 when I first became involved. Clients are diverse in gender, ethnicity, religion, and race, and as such, require versatile security professionals to assist in meeting their requirements.
Women who work within the spectrum of the security industry are still challenging varying stereotypes around the globe, especially in the assignments of risk analysis, business continuity and training. Support for the advancement of women within an organisation must be driven through a top down approach. This will ensure that diversification within the industry is enabled.
What do you think women bring to the industry?
Women bring a unique approach to security. We have been in the security industry for decades (albeit in smaller numbers than today). We have watched and been effected by events which have altered the state of world. Many of us have mobilised into action with our male counterparts. One day in an outback pub, I remember watching the second plane fly into the World Trade Center and feeling a profound sense of duty and responsibility to ensure such a tragedy never occurred again. Above all, women bring their own experience forged from diverse aspects of the security profession.
At a tactical level, as 50% of the world’s population is female, there needs to be female operational security personnel to implement the physical security aspects such as searching of female persons, baggage, etc. This follows through to the management and consulting solutions in which females have much to offer.
How has the increase in security education courses affected the new intake and next generation?
Education within the Industry has changed the profession for the better. The board certifications through ASIS International are world recognised accreditations and they are recognised for their rigor and breadth of subject matter.
Education is transforming the industry into a profession. I started my university education at a young age with the intention of gaining quick entry into law enforcement. I had no idea all those years ago how much education would broaden my approach to security and twenty-one years later I am still studying.
It is no longer having only experience, especially when transitioning from government service into the private sector, the younger security professionals are undertaking a range of education from under and post graduate courses through to industry recognised certifications such as ASIS has to offer.
What do you think needs to be done to get more women in security?
Women within security need to continue to identify accomplished women and actively encourage their involvement and participation within the security industry. Groups like ASIS International’s Women in Security working group can help.
Members of ASIS must reach out to women working in roles not strictly perceived be in the security sector, for instance, fraud investigators, compliance officers, risk analysts, etc. For as long as I can remember, I have been encouraging women to join more traditional security professions, such as the military or police force, and other areas like risk management and security analysis. While it has not always been smooth sailing, this industry has provided me with opportunities I would never have been afforded otherwise, and it can do the same for women everywhere.
Are there any initiatives already in place and are they working?
Women in Security is becoming highly active in the Middle East region. Currently, ASIS has Women in Security Liaisons from Egypt to Saudi Arabia to the UAE and we are connected women in the region and supporting their work in security in the region. One thing we have learned is that many women are unaware of the support that WIS provides its members. We are even reaching out to government entities and security companies for their input and in October we hope to hold a 2-day conference for women in security.
On another note, looking at many law enforcement agencies and military or security organisations, it is evident that advice on increasing female participation (whether solicited or not) is being headed. Many countries have taken the advice and actively aimed to recruit women. Addressing stereotypes and perceived organisational ‘culture’ in relation to women and their limitations is a focal point of many strategically minded organisations through media campaigns.
What does your role with ASIS entail and why do you and ASIS feel it’s important to have someone dedicated to this?
The mission statement of ASIS International’s Women in Security is to provide support and assistance to women in the security industry as well as to inspire those interested in entering the security industry through tailored programing and mentoring. WIS will support and promotes its global members by utilizing collaborated skills and talents to strengthen leadership abilities.
Specifically, my role within the Dubai Chapter is to coordinate WIS events within the chapter, network with other professionals in the security industry, develop, supporting, and coordinating educational programs. Most importantly, I seek to attract more women to ASIS and to the security industry and to support and mentor those ASIS members who are already working within the Industry.
Learn more on Women in Security here.
Kim Martens-Thompson is a security intelligence and risk analyst, who has worked in the Middle East for eleven years. Selected for her background in policing and the military, she became the first female close protection officer in Iraq in 2003 and during the nine years Kim spent in Iraq she was awarded two commendations for her actions under fire. While working at the United Nations and Australian Embassy in Iraq, Kim transitioned into intelligence analysis. Kim moved to the UAE to serve as a training advisor to the UAE Military, specialising in training the female members of the Presidential Guard.
She previously served as the Women’s Advisory Network Liaison for the Western Australian Commissioner of Police in the Goldfields Esperance District, the largest policing district in the world. She commenced her studies at Edith Cowan University Western Australia in counterterrorism, physical security, and intelligence and is currently studying at St Andrews University. Kim has long been passionate about attracting, retaining, and empowering women within the security industry.
When she is not glued to her computer trying to complete her studies, she is searching for the best caffeine-jolt locations to keep up with her four-year old daughter!
She can be contacted at Kmartens.firstname.lastname@example.org.