Women of Loss Prevention

women in loss prevention

Loss prevention has evolved significantly over the past several decades. Today’s loss prevention professionals are expected to be multidimensional, open minded, global thinking, enterprising, and intelligent. Company leaders now understand and respect the importance of protecting the company’s assets against the challenges of total retail loss (rather than simply making shoplifter apprehensions), recognizing the value of training and awareness, and respecting the benefits of partnerships and diplomacy. This has encouraged a new and improved retail industry where effective loss prevention strategies are echoed from the C-suite and entwined in the retail business model.

Yet as far as we have come, there are still mountains to climb. Talented, driven, intelligent, and capable women have long been an integral part of the loss prevention industry, but the profession is still largely male-dominated. Why? Is it the general perception women have of the profession? Is it the potential physical aspects of the job, the culture of the times, or other choices available to women? Is it the way women are treated or perceived within the industry? Is it something else?

As women continue to perform and excel in the loss prevention industry, every opportunity should be taken to ensure that everyone on our LP teams is treated fairly, equally, and respectfully regardless of gender-or other bias. This commitment must be shared across the loss prevention community, supported by company leadership, and equally respected by both the men and women of our organizations. While many individuals and organizations do an outstanding job, others lag behind. Either way, there are always opportunities to learn and improve.

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How do women feel about their role in loss prevention? We spoke directly to the women of loss prevention to find out.

The Survey

LP Magazine’s Women of Loss Prevention survey provides a unique, comprehensive look at how women view their current roles in our industry, how they feel they are perceived as industry professionals, the role they feel gender and gender bias has played in their ongoing career opportunities, and the responsibility that every LP professional holds to remain accountable for their own career growth and development.

The goal of the survey was to provide an objective window into the thoughts, ideas, and opinions of the women of LP regarding these key areas and to open doors for additional discussion. By offering an anonymous venue for women to openly voice their views on these topics, we gained a more complete and comprehensive understanding of how the women of loss prevention perceive these important questions and perhaps can spark fresh thoughts and ideas on how we can best address these topics to further enhance our LP teams.

Survey Questions

The survey was constructed by women for the women of loss prevention. We began by approaching approximately twenty prominent women in leadership roles across the loss prevention industry, asking them to provide a list of questions they felt represented important and productive topics relevant to the industry. Several of these leaders further encouraged women on their teams to participate in the process, resulting in a wide spectrum of topics.

For practical purposes, their feedback was narrowed to a pool of fifty questions, with the final product submitted to these leaders for additional feedback prior to distribution. All the women participating in the question-writing process remained anonymous.

Survey Distribution

Invitations to participate in the Women of Loss Prevention survey were extended through several different outlets. Participation was limited exclusively to women with experience in the profession. In order to most accurately represent the thoughts and opinions of all women in the industry, we did not further limit participation based on experience levels or other qualities. All participants were informed that their participation would remain anonymous to further encourage honest, open, and complete responses.

The survey distribution process uncovered an initial, critical finding-as we contacted loss prevention leaders from across the industry, we were met with overwhelming support for the survey process. Every comment was positive, every response cooperative and encouraging. As leaders distributed survey information to the women on their teams, many shared additional words of support and encouragement for their participation.

This response displayed much more than a willingness by loss prevention leadership to participate in the process; it appeared to be a genuine sign of interest with what the women of loss prevention have to say. Opening dialogue and committing to the process is a constructive step forward that should be recognized and applauded across the LP community.

Collecting and Reporting Survey Results

Constructing the survey and collecting results was managed through a professional survey platform to further protect result accuracy, process integrity, and respondents’ anonymity. Only minor edits were made to respondents’ comments to correct spelling and grammar, further protect anonymity, and alleviate similar concerns. Otherwise, the thoughts and opinions shared in these comments are strictly those expressed by individual respondents. The content summarized here represents a high-level overview of the survey results. Those interested in a more detailed perspective of survey results and comments should download the full report here: “The Women of Loss Prevention: Survey Results Reveal How Women View Their Current Roles in the Industry.”

The Respondents

Approximately 500 women participated in the fifty-question survey. These respondents represented diverse experience levels, backgrounds, positions, aspirations, and career responsibility within the industry, which provided comprehensive views and opinions of the various subjects discussed from within all levels of the loss prevention structure.

  • Every level of professional experience was well represented, providing a broad spectrum of perspectives from those just launching their careers to those who have dedicated their professional lives to retail loss prevention.
  • Women in roles from store-level to department pyramid heads participated in the survey, offering perspectives within these different roles, in different settings, and while holding different levels of responsibility.
  • Approximately 90% of respondents reported that loss prevention was not their original choice as a career path. One in four participants started their careers in retail loss prevention and have remained in that role. Nearly three out of four indicated they began their careers in an area outside of loss prevention, with approximately half indicating they started their careers in retail but in a function other than loss prevention.
  • Respondents would be considered well educated, with nine out of ten indicating at least some college education and nearly three in five a bachelor’s degree or higher.

Career Advancement

Do the women of loss prevention believe they have the support of their companies in terms of professional development and career advancement? Several questions focused on gauging women’s responses concerning this topic.

  • The women who participated in our survey overwhelmingly felt they have the opportunity to further their careers in loss prevention if they choose to do so, with 90% of respondents agreeing that advancement is attainable.
  • The majority of respondents felt they have the same opportunity to further their careers in loss prevention as a man would have, with 70% voicing their agreement.
  • A large majority (79%) felt their companies are doing an effective job of recruiting female talent into loss prevention.
  • Similarly, a large majority (78 percent) felt their companies are doing an effective job of developing female talent for loss prevention leadership roles.
  • A larger majority (82 percent) also felt their companies are doing an effective job of promoting gender diversity within their loss prevention programs.

Despite these encouraging outcomes, some areas resulted in very mixed responses.

  • The respondents were evenly split when asked whether they felt they missed out on a raise, promotion, key assignment, or chance to get ahead simply because they were female, with 53% agreeing and 47% disagreeing that this had been an issue.
  • Similarly, they disagreed on whether an opportunity for a position or promotion was negatively impacted due to gender, with responses divided between those who agreed (40 percent) and those who disagreed (60 percent).
  • As one might expect, respondents’ comments were also diverse, many offering incidents, examples, and/ or beliefs based on their personal experiences. Looking at the comments as a whole, most seemed to agree that the overall effectiveness of these efforts depended largely on the leadership within the department and the culture of the organization.

Being Part of the Team

Diversity and inclusion in the workforce have long been recognized as critical aspects of professional success, increasing our creativity and problem-solving, enhancing our learning experiences, shaping new attitudes, increasing flexibility, and improving workforce quality. This must be channeled through every member of the team—celebrating our differences and seeing the value that every individual brings to the table is a shared responsibility as much as it is an individual point of view. However, it’s just as important that we see our similarities and share a common respect for one another.

When it comes to being a member of the loss prevention team, our survey respondents said they believe they have the support and respect of the men that they work with.

  • They overwhelmingly felt they belonged as part of the loss prevention team, with 96 percent indicating that they agree.
  • Participants left no doubt they feel as capable of performing their job responsibilities as their male counterparts, with 100% in agreement on the issue.
  • When it comes to sharing opinions and speaking their minds, respondents overwhelmingly felt (88%) they have an equal voice to their male counterparts.
  • Nine out of ten respondents felt they have the respect and support of their bosses regarding their career aspirations. When asked if it mattered whether their boss was a man or a woman on this subject, 80 percent indicated that it didn’t matter. Eighty-one percent of women indicated that their boss was male, while 19 percent reported to a female.
  • The vast majority (92%) of respondents agreed they have the support and respect of their male peers, with 82 percent also believing they have the support and respect of their male subordinates and 10 percent reporting they do not have subordinates.

Do women feel they are often asked to perform assignments that are more stereotypical for women such as the note taker or activity coordinator? Responses to this question were very mixed, divided between those who disagreed (63%) and those who agreed (37%). By the same respect, when asked if women often volunteer to perform assignments that are more stereotypical for women, there was a similar division between those who agreed (55%) and those who disagreed (45%).

When asked if there were situations where they felt more at risk as a woman, the respondents also had a very mixed response, divided almost equally between those who agreed (49%) and those who disagreed (51%). The comments provided were also somewhat diverse based on personal experiences, with many women indicating that pregnancy was a primary reason they felt more at risk. Others were more inclined to perceive a risk of losing their job rather than a risk of personal safety.

Professional Development

Nearly eight of ten (77%) responded that they aspire to reach senior loss prevention leadership roles during their careers. While several shared they didn’t feel it was likely they would assume a senior leadership role, several others shared they had already reached a senior leadership position during their careers.

These women overwhelmingly indicated they believe they have the opportunity for a productive and long-term career in loss prevention if they choose to have one, with 95 percent of respondents agreeing that career options in the profession will remain available and attainable. Eight-six percent felt they would continue to hold positions in loss prevention five years from now, while many who disagreed did so based on retirement. Others said they might explore other areas of retail to help further advance their careers, while some felt that workforce reductions might impact the profession. Most expressed that they really enjoy working in loss prevention.

  • Participants overwhelmingly stated that they have established a personal plan for their professional growth and development (96%).
  • They indicated strong belief that it’s important to develop their own skills and abilities as part of career growth, rating the importance as a nine on a scale of one to ten. As one might expect, there were some strong responses regarding the need to take personal responsibility for one’s own growth and development.
  • The vast majority (94%) stated that they seek out opportunities for continuing education to support growth and investment in their careers. Industry certifications were offered as the most frequent option for continuing education, followed by formal college education, online courses, company courses, industry conferences, and more informal means such as reading books and staying current through industry newsletters.
  • A majority (83%) recognized the importance of the various industry certifications for growth and investment in their careers. The most frequently identified certifications that participants have obtained or were pursuing included (in this order) the LPCertified (LPC), Certified Forensic Interviewer (CFI), Wicklander-Zulawski Interview and Interrogation (W-Z), LPQualified (LPQ), and Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE).
  • Approximately 85 percent stated they seek out professional networking opportunities that could benefit their careers. The most frequently identified networking opportunities included national conferences, followed by local and regional events. LinkedIn was also a popular networking venue, followed by organized retail crime associations (ORCAs) and company-sponsored events.
  • Approximately nine in ten participants stated they use online tools and social media such as websites, newsletters, and similar resources to educate themselves and stay current as loss prevention professionals.
  • A large majority (90%) also said they volunteer to get involved in tasks or special projects in the workplace.

Mentors and Sponsors

Effective leaders must possess integrity and humility, recognizing the importance of having others who can help them grow and develop. Our willingness to take advice and direction greatly impacts our ability to expand our talents and make a difference. By the same respect, a leader must be willing to help others to act, assuming the responsibility to nurture others in a way that will help them grow. We must seek out and accept mentors while also undertaking the guidance and responsibility of mentorship, assuming both roles with equal passion, enthusiasm, and accountability.

Approximately 78 percent of participants indicated they have an individual who has served as a mentor during their careers, with 13 percent stating that their primary mentor is a woman, 30 percent a man, and 35 percent revealing they have had both male and female mentors. Highlighting a clear area of opportunity, approximately one in five indicated they do not feel they’ve had mentors who played significant roles in their careers.

A sponsor is someone who can both advise you on your career and help to advance it. They promote, protect, prepare, and push you. Similarly, more than half of the women surveyed indicated they do not feel they’ve had sponsors who have played significant roles in their careers.

Work-Life Balance

There was a time not long ago when the boundaries between work life and home life were fairly clear. But the world has changed, and unfortunately for many of us, the lines that once defined those boundaries have blurred. As a result, finding common ground and a viable work-life balance has become more and more challenging. All of us must learn to manage our work-life balance better and more efficiently, finding harmony between our personal and professional responsibilities.

Approximately 78 percent of participants responded that they are currently satisfied with their work-life balance at some level. Most of the comments focused on the demanding schedule, rigorous hours, and regular travel hours that they felt can lead to stress on occasion.

On a positive note, an overwhelming majority (96%) felt that their families are supportive of their careers.

Industry Support

A large majority of respondents (89%) said they believe the industry has become more inclusive for women since they’ve joined the profession. While many felt the industry has made great strides, others believed there is still somewhat of a “glass ceiling,” especially at the upper levels of management.

Approximately 72 percent of respondents felt gender biases remain in the loss prevention industry today. Many of the comments throughout the survey referenced an ongoing “good old boys” network that they believed still exists.

  • On a scale of one (poor) to ten (excellent), respondents gave the industry an average score of approximately a seven in its treatment of women within the industry.
  • Respondents perceived the ability to influence change across the industry, overcoming misconceptions and stereotypes, inspiring others, and injecting a different approach and perspective as important aspects that women offer to the industry.
  • Looking at some of the greatest hurdles, the most common responses included work-life balance, self-confidence and self-advocacy, and the ongoing need for mentors and strong female leadership. Additional remarks included salary issues, sexism, overcoming stereotypes, and overall respect as a general theme.
  • Responses were mixed as to whether being a woman provided any particular advantage or disadvantage as an LP professional. Many indicated they didn’t feel that women face hurdles any different than those that men face, with some further stressing the need to embrace our differences and have greater self-confidence. “We stand in our own way” was a repetitive theme.

When looking at the perceptions and stereotypes that the women of LP feel they’ve had to overcome, many commented on the difficulties of leadership in a male-dominated profession, salary and promotional disparities, and stereotypes of women being “too soft,” “too emotional,” or “too sensitive.” Additional remarks included issues with appearance, sexual harassment, and other inappropriate comments and behavior.

There were also those who felt that perceptions and stereotypes were minimal, claiming they insisted upon being evaluated by performance rather than other factors, praising the women who came before them for paving the way for performance-based standards.

Finding Common Ground

When asked to describe how the loss prevention industry benefits from being more gender diverse, the respondents overwhelmingly referred to the importance of garnering different perspectives and the value this brings to every aspect of the business. Many focused on balance, quality, creativity, flexibility, and morale, while others discussed diversity of thought, the importance of life experiences, creating a stronger and more sustainable industry, and the power of big-picture solutions.

Many felt the industry has made significant strides in creating a more inclusive environment for women and is currently on the right track. But there remains a need for both men and women to change our attitudes and perspectives on how we approach women in the industry, which should be a primary imperative to accomplishing real change.

  • When asked to describe the greatest misconception that men have, respondents persistently commented that they do not want to be perceived as “weak” or incapable of performing everyday responsibilities that might be deemed difficult due to the potential for physical altercations and similar situations that occasionally occur in the retail LP setting.
  • Common responses also focused on dedication, respect, resiliency, professionalism, and individuality. Others emphasized concentrating on the value of diverse solutions and shared skills, ideas, and other similarities rather than differences.

To ensure that women are provided equal opportunities, mentorship and sponsorship programs were among the most common responses. Others suggested training and education, enhanced policies, and hiring and recruiting practices that would attract more women to the profession.

While some stressed the need for companies to take additional action, many women emphasized the need for women to look inside themselves to influence real change. Continuing self-improvement and speaking up to promote their strengths and abilities were frequent responses.

Moving Forward

While the women who responded envisioned many different ways the role of women in the workforce may change over the next five years, most believed that there would be positive change.

Most felt that LP will remain a good career path for women, underscoring the evolving nature of the industry, the prospects for continuing growth and development, learning, and problem-solving to meet the evolving changes and challenges of the retail business, and bringing new and diverse perspectives to the industry as a whole. Many further added that they felt these opportunities were gender-neutral and applied to all LP professionals equally.

The most prominent message respondents want other women to know and understand is the need to focus attention on building a successful and productive career based on hard work and exceptional performance rather than allowing distractions and narrow-minded perceptions-whether someone else’s perceptions or one’ own-to stand in the way.

Generally speaking, there was recognition of the need to devote energy to growth and self-development, self-responsibility, self-promotion, and self-confidence. They said integrity is paramount and a successful career is built primarily upon drive, passion, and results.

When asked to offer additional advice to young women just starting out in the loss prevention profession, the most prominent message was the importance of seeking out strong mentors, both male and female, who can offer guidance and counseling as they progress as loss prevention professionals.

Almost all of the women surveyed described loss prevention as an exciting and rewarding career, sharing messages of support and the opportunity to make a difference.

Final Thoughts from the Survey

When asked for final comments, concerns, or suggestions, the respondents discussed the strides they feel have been made in loss prevention regarding gender equality, as well as the ongoing need to ensure that men and women are treated as equal partners in the workplace.

The women emphasized that while most individuals and organization actively and persistently support gender diversity and equality in the workplace, some still fall short of expectations.

By the same respect, most of our respondents felt that women are equally responsible to earn merit through performance rather than gender or any other nonperformance metric. They said time is up for excuses, and we all must work hard, be heard, focus on our own growth and development, remain professional and respectful, and strive to be the best if we want to get ahead professionally.

What’s Next?

What are the next steps? How will loss prevention leadership, retail organizations, and the loss prevention industry in general respond to the Women of Loss Prevention survey? Who is responsible for moving the conversation forward? How should the discussion move forward? What action if any should be taken? Information provides a vehicle for change, but it’s still up to us to take the wheel.

In part two of our conversation about the women of LP scheduled for the July-August issue of LP Magazine, we’ll share the thoughts, perspectives, ideas, insights, and suggestions from leaders—both female and male—across the loss prevention industry.

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