Results of international research on diversity, equity and inclusion in corporate security released

New Zealand Security Magazine - February 2023

New report highlights DEI challenges within corporate security.

The recently released report ‘Empowering Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Corporate Security’ gives a glimpse into the challenges and opportunities faced within the security profession.

The US-based ASIS Foundation in partnership with UK-based research firm The Clarity Factory last month launched its first-ever Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) report, Empowering Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Corporate Security 2022.

The report highlights DEI challenges within corporate security and suggestions towards building a culture that respects and celebrates the diversity of its workforce; recruiting, developing, and retaining diverse talent necessary to address the challenges faced by the security profession.

In addition to an extensive literature review of latest thinking and best practice on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), the Clarity Factory conducted:

  • Informal interviews and discussions with 32 professionals across the security industry, along with participation in a number of informal industry networks on DEI.
  • Structured interviews with 16 Chief Security Officers from multinational companies based in the UK, US, Australia, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Germany.
  • An anonymous survey, which received 474 responses, which were concentrated in the US, the UK, Canada, and Europe.

Survey respondents were 38 percent women, 11 percent LGBTQIA+, 6 percent had a physical disability and 11 percent were neurodiverse. 21 percent of respondents residing in the US, Canada, the UK, Europe, Australia and New Zealand were non-Caucasian.

Researchers also received data from SMR Group, a small, woman- and veteran-owned recruitment firm working across 75 countries, whose sole focus is security, risk and resiliency. They analysed data from the last five years of job searches, which included over 5,000 records, providing anonymised numbers to The Clarity Factory.

“Valuing and leveraging a diverse workforce, and developing and retaining talent with different life experiences, will undoubtedly bring better and more strategic solutions to the world of security,” said Maria Teresa Septien CPP, Chair of the ASIS Foundation Board of Trustees.

“We embarked on this research effort to better understand the current state of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) within corporate security: the nature and extent of diversity, the experience of diverse professionals within the industry, the thinking of corporate security leaders and the types of initiatives they are spearheading, the role of membership organizations, and outstanding challenges,” she continued. “Organisations like ASIS International have a key role to play in progressing DEI efforts now and in the years to come.”

The research points to the following practices for corporate security functions:

  • Use of metrics to track progress and hold managers accountable
  • Provide training for managers in conducting reviews and promotions
  • Offer equal access to career development enhancing opportunities
  • Identify routes for progression for the intelligence function to transition – it is a diverse cohort but struggles to transition into mainstream security roles

“According to the study’s findings, corporate security departments have recently placed more focus on DEI work,” said Rachel Briggs OBE, co-founder and CEO of The Clarity Factory.

“Corporate leaders acknowledge the importance of DEI but also voice their displeasure that more hasn’t been done,” she said. “Security isn’t the only sector suffering with it. Although there is still much to learn about the strategies that will work best for corporate security, this study gives us a glimpse into the most urgent problems now present in corporate security settings.”

Nearly all of the CSOs participating in the research placed a great emphasis on broadening the diversity of their teams, improving equity via the work, and fostering inclusive workplaces. Their work across the three areas of DEI was documented and fell into the following three categories:

  1. Collective Wisdom: Getting more diverse talent into corporate security – diversity
  2. Rewarding Talent: Ensuring all talent can rise equitably through the function – equity
  3. Unlocking the Diversity Dividend: Inclusive work environments – inclusion

The research cites that corporate security starts from a much lower diversity base than most other areas of the business. For example, data from SMR Group showed that 94 percent of their candidates for security, risk and resiliency roles globally were men, and 70 percent came from a former government background – generally military, police or intelligence.

Additionally, it also points to the following practices for security industry membership organisations to further their role as change agents as their access and reach is significant. Those practices include:

  • Collecting data to understand their members and gather input and feedback on DE&I efforts.
  • Revising talent spotting and selection processes to ensure diversity within boards and leadership
  • Using programming to enhance DE&I within the industry, including diversity of speakers, rules on entertainment at events, instigating and implementing codes of conduct, offering safe spaces for discussions about DE&I, ensuring fair approaches to awards, running programs for members on reverse mentoring, and promoting and supporting DE&I networks.
  • Playing an active role in wider industry branding efforts, such as campaigns and career pathways.

The ASIS Foundation was founded as an affiliate of ASIS International in 1966 to serve the security industry through education and research. The Foundation awards more than 100 grants and scholarships annually to support security professionals.