Aviation Security: it’s a man’s world…or is it?

by Chloé Woodcock

Most people, if asked, might conclude that the majority of airport and airline heads of security are men. Is it because men are perceived to be ‘harder’? Is the female of the species just as capable of stepping up to the security challenge?

One female making her mark in aviation security management is Securitas’ Debbie Lacy, Airport Station Manager at Liverpool John Lennon Airport. She believes that if you don’t think being female is a weakness, others won’t see it as one either.

“Go for the job you want and if you prove yourself as an employee, people won’t care if you are male or female,” she says. “I’ve learned to have confidence in the tasks I perform and I’m supported by Securitas and the customers in my role. I’m a strong individual, so my sex makes little difference as long as I complete the job in hand well.”

“I have come across select groups of males who have made comments not only about my sex, but about my age (32). However, I treat them as individuals so it’s not an option to treat me as anything but. Their opinions soon change once they work alongside me and realise that being female makes no difference to the execution of the role.”

Debbie reveals she did not intend to work in the security industry and, before she did, she believed it was a male-dominated world in which she would have very little chance of being taken seriously or being successful in. “I think I had this interpretation that security was a man’s job,” she admits. “Whether it was from the media, promotional images or what I had experienced in everyday life, I had fallen foul of the stereotypical image of security.”

Debbie now feels privileged to be one of the very few females in aviation management. “I’m the only female at area meetings and very often in the minority at airport staff meetings,” she explains. “As an employer, it has concerned me that I’ve had very few applications from our female staff for promotion and it’s something we are now working very hard at to actively encourage. Security does not have a glamorous, female-friendly image and it’s important that we promote and market specifically for females in order to balance the numbers within the industry.”

Sue Seaby, co-founder of the Women’s Security Society (WSS), is a Strategic Development Director for Securitas and has worked for over 30 years in corporate security in the fields of aviation, finance, and telecommunications at various levels of management. She is a trained and qualified crisis management leader, hostage negotiator, change management practitioner, bomb threat assessor and behaviour profiling specialist, and was actively involved in investigating or managing teams during the Lockerbie air disaster, 9/11 and 7/7 incidents.