We read with interest the Women of Loss Prevention survey in the May-June and July-August 2018 editions of LP Magazine. From our own experience during the last 35 years, we have seen a significant change in the genders, racial mixture, and ages of those attending our training programs. When we first started in business, older white males almost exclusively held the top slots in loss prevention and police. Our participants in our classes were also largely males, again mostly white.
But times have changed, and for the better we think. Women now hold top positions in loss prevention and influence changes in our field. Our classes reflect the impact of these changes with the number of women taking our programs often equaling the men. Part of this change can be attributed to the attendance of human resource professionals, which in many organizations is staffed by a majority of women, but even adjusting for that, females in our field are increasing. In the public sector females are also taking a leadership role assuming the chief of police positions in some major departments.
The private sector has changed much faster than the public sector when including women in leadership positions and in general hiring. Law enforcement positions by their very nature discourage leaving the job for another position. Officers generally stay with one department for their entire careers to obtain a pension, thus turnover is generally low. Thirty years ago an open police position might have 300-plus applicants vying for the single position, and there were almost no women seeking this type of work. If the officers didn’t retire until twenty to thirty years later, there were just no open slots for women. Additionally, the opportunity to advance was limited to openings in that department since most agencies did not hire from the outside, except perhaps for a chief of police position. This thinking has eased in some agencies where officers can make some lateral moves from one organization to another. Others agencies still have union rules where experienced officers lose their tenure thereby starting at the bottom of the pecking order again if they join a new department.
One other factor that slowed women’s advancement in law enforcement was the physical challenges necessary to get the job. The physical agility tests for hiring were often too difficult for women to pass resulting in them not making the hiring list or landing very low in the standings. Another factor was the institutional thinking of government agencies, which was difficult to change because there was little turnover, resulting in a business-as-usual attitude. It took years of steady pressure for a law enforcement departments’ thinking to change and realize women could handle field situations and need not be relegated to only child abuse or family issues. Clearly, law enforcement is changing, but the change is much slower, in some cases glacial. The change in the private sector relating to women has been more rapid because of people’s ability to change jobs, advance, and bring new ideas to the organization.
We were pleased to see that in the Women of Loss Prevention survey, 90 percent agreed that advancement was attainable with 70 percent believing they had the same promotional opportunities as a man. Almost 80 percent of women responding to the survey felt their organizations were doing an effective job of recruiting female talent into loss prevention and their company was effective at promoting diversity in the loss prevention department. The vast majority of women (92%) felt they had the support and respect of their male peers, and 82 percent also felt they had the support of their male subordinates.
While the survey had some disagreement on other topics, we think this shows a positive movement of inclusion for the women in our industry. But there is still a long way to go. So how can women promote themselves?
Getting specialized training or certifications is one way to make a resume stand out from the rest. People who take that next step to work toward a certification are saying volumes about their will to succeed. This is extra work above and beyond the daily tasks. Obtaining a certification highlights one’s commitment to the field.
Certifications like LPCertified (LPC), LPQualified (LPQ), Certified Forensic Interviewer (CFI), or any of the ASIS International certifications can help your resume stand out from others in the field. Of the current CFIs, almost 560 hold the position of vice president or director, and almost half were promoted to these new roles in the last several years. We’re also proud to say that over 20 percent of CFIs are women.
Women are finding other ways to set themselves apart from males in our industry. For example, joining associations and looking for opportunities to join committees can be a significant way to further one’s career.
Kathleen Smith, CFI, vice president of loss prevention for Safeway, shared, “I joined different associations because I believed that I would gain a different perspective on [asset protection and loss prevention] practices by looking at issues facing broader markets, and not limit myself to just the grocery industry. I know I’ve learned from the entire industry of security, loss prevention, and asset protection professionals that I have met over the years. Plus, this helped me with contacts I could turn to for suggestions that I could possibly apply to my organization’s unique needs.
“Although at the time I did not perceive joining different associations was a form self-marketing, in retrospect that’s what occurred. The broader your base, the more knowledge you gain, the more areas you find to connect with others, which grows your network and ultimately promotes yourself.”
Smith continued, “I believe that to grow and develop as a professional in our industry, you must branch out from what you know and what is familiar. I’ve learned something new at every event I’ve attended…even after so many years in this business.”
As part of the ASIS Retail Council, Smith said, “Part of what I enjoy and value most about ASIS is that you will never find a more diverse population of security professionals. The directory alone gives you a contact point in company and business across the nation and the world for that matter.”
As vice chair of the ASIS Retail Council, this coauthor [Shane Sturman] knows that the Retail Council is always looking for women to join our ranks to diversify our membership and bring new ideas with them. I, personally, am looking for women to join us who can broaden our knowledge and contribute to our positive growth as a council. If anyone has an interest, please contact me at ssturman [at] w-z.com.
Obtaining certifications and joining associations are excellent ways to market one’s self and make contacts, but certainly there are other equally valuable opportunities to separate from the masses. Annette Roder, former chief talent officer and senior vice president of human resources at KeHE, suggested finding a mentor to help develop a strategic outlook on the business and organizational processes.
“I was fortunate to have several mentors during my career. They helped me develop my knowledge and experience, plus they allowed me to try new projects and offered critical guidance. Their advice helped me prepare for my subsequent promotions, but just as important they helped me develop a big picture outlook when working with senior executives,” related Roder. “I can say their guidance played a strong part in my career development and later decision-making. I still keep in touch with them.” Roder helped senior management grow the organization to almost triple its size during her tenure. Today she sits on several boards continuing her personal growth.
Another thought we might suggest is stepping outside your comfort zone and volunteering for projects that you might not ordinarily consider, thereby expanding your worldview. It’s easy to do something that you’ve tried before and been successful at but much more difficult to take that step into the unknown. However, by volunteering for assignments outside your expertise, you have an opportunity to meet new contacts, try new things, and perhaps develop a talent you never knew you had.
Not just for the women out there but also for anyone looking at their career, create a strategic plan focusing on the skills, contacts, and knowledge you will need to get there. Decide who might make a wonderful mentor and ask them if they have the time. Most people, when asked, are extremely flattered and will go out of their way to help in your development. Consider which associations and certifications fit into your strategic thinking and which contacts will be important to springboard your career. Then take the time to execute your plan. We wish you the best of luck.