The numbers of women entering security are increasing, and women already in the industry are working their way into board rooms in every sector; and each of them has a key leading light to look up to. Julie A Kenny CBE DL, Chairman and CEO of Pyronix and former BSIA chairman broke ground in what was a male dominated industry and gave women across the industry and beyond something to aspire to.
Kenny, like many women, did not start out with any aspirations of a career in security. In fact, she started working life as a secretary in a law firm and spent 10 years working her way up a legal career by combining full time work with part time study. When her husband was made redundant, Kenny and her husband saw an opportunity, Kenny sold her house and used the equity of £28.5k to launch Pyronix.
“When my husband developed the new technology we saw the chance to cater to a niche market, so in 1986, Pyronix was born,” said Kenny. “It was a big venture for us, and I spent three years in full time employment while getting Pyronix off the ground. The hard work was completely rewarded though, as by 1992 the company was the number one detector manufacturer and I was one of the few female directors of a security company.”
Kenny took her position as company director very seriously, and not just to ensure the ongoing success of her own business. The support and growth of the security industry as a whole is something Kenny took great interest in, which is why she joined the BSIA and dedicated time to networking and developing industry relationships.
“When I became a member of the BSIA’s Board it was very much like joining a London Gentleman’s Club! I was the first female member amongst 42 men, but there was absolutely no resistance to my contribution. I was welcomed and encouraged and it was a great place to converse with professionals at the highest level.”
Kenny was twice asked to chair the Security Equipment Manufacturers Section of the BSIA holding that post for a total of 4 years and after that, it wasn’t too long before Kenny was approached to take on the role of the Chairman of the BSIA, the first woman in the role, a position she was honoured to accept. During her time as Chairman, Kenny championed women in the industry, and this is something she has continued throughout her career.
“During my career I’ve witnessed the number of women working in the industry increase, and although this industry has been perceived as male dominated I’ve experienced very little opposition towards women in the electronics sector. This leads me to believe that a significant reason for a lack of female presence is the perception placed on acceptable careers for women in general, such as within the sector which includes Door Supervisors and Man Guarding, rather than something the security industry has created. As the idea of what women can or should do has evolved so has their role in the industry, but women still face work/life balance issues today..”
Kenny highlights that although more women are working in the industry there are still only a limited number in executive positions. She says it’s important that the right individual is selected for a role, and that a woman shouldn’t be hired simply to create diversity, but there are great benefits to having women in the board room.
“Women think differently to men and approach projects from different angles. It’s been my experience that women ensure they understand every aspect of a project, so they ask the ‘daft’ questions which some men may avoid, and these questions tend to be key factors that could have been overlooked.”
Today, Julie Kenny continues to be a strong and respected leader in the security community, and she is putting her formidable energy into supporting her local area by working with the South Yorkshire Community Foundation, Wentworth Woodhouse PreservationTrust and the Sheffield City Region LEP, whereas nationally she works with the UK Commission for Employment and Skills.