Why celebrating the success of women in security is a man’s game too

Jane Farrell
About the author : Jane Farrell

Jane Farrell (CsyP) is Head of Security for Sodexo UK & Ireland and a member of our SoTogether network

Published on : 5/19/22
  • Through 70 years of leadership, The Queen has inspired us all. Sodexo features in the only official book marking the Platinum Jubilee pageant in recognition of how we champion women in leadership. To celebrate this honour, we spoke to Jane Farrell, Head of Security about her experiences, their challenges and the guidance she’d give to others who might want to follow in her footsteps.

    Platinum Jubilee sponsorship logo
    Jane Farrell is Sodexo’s Head of Security for UK & Ireland. An award-winning trailblazer in the industry, she’s worked hard to raise the profile of female professionals. She explains why celebrating women’s achievements is so important, and how it’s changed how her whole team – men and women – recruit and promote their colleagues. 

    Debunking stereotypes 


    Let’s start by knocking down two of the biggest assumptions about this industry: yes, I’m a woman, and no, I don’t look like a bouncer.

    People outside the security world often underestimate its diversity in a whole range of areas, whether that’s gender, role types or the myriad career opportunities.   

    Sodexo provides protection and guarding services in very different sectors. With corporate offices you get more of a concierge feel and there’s a mix of electronic and in-person work. In hospital A&E departments, there’s more physical intervention and less predictability. But wherever we are, I’m proud to say we’re attracting and promoting more and more women. 
     

    Driving change from within  


    I moved into security about 15 years ago from our facilities management business. I wasn’t the only woman here, but at my first industry event I was confronted with a sea of men. It was such a unique experience I felt compelled to do something about it. 

    I created a networking group in 2012 called Sodexo Women in Security (SWIS for short) and at our very first meeting we talked about barriers. One of the biggest was awareness, like not realising there were other options than a 12-hour night shift. The other barriers were ones of perception, as it’s easy to assume it’s not a good career choice for women when you can’t see any around you.  

    Ten years later, SWIS is still going strong. It runs sessions on everything from CV building to conflict diffusion, which are open to everyone, and we issue a regular newsletter too. Back then, 12% of our team were women and we’ve doubled that to reach 24%. The industry average is 9%. 
     

    Leading the industry 


    To support change in the wider industry I had to push myself out of my comfort zone. Thankfully I had the support and encouragement of male and female colleagues, including Kathy Ridgard, a real champion of women and such a role model for me. 

    I became a Chartered Security Professional (CSyP) in 2020, only the seventh woman to do so at that time, and won the 2013 Women in Security Industry award. Then in 2017, I became the first female chair of the International Professional Security Association and won a Northern Power Transformational leader award 

    I don’t talk about these things to brag, although I’m proud of these achievements. It’s because when you work in a male-dominated industry, visibility matters.

    To be valued, you first need to be seen, which is why I now take every opportunity to raise the profile of women in our team.  
     

    Celebrating success 


    In the last ten years, I’m delighted to say we’ve had three winners and nine finalists in the Women in Security Awards. And it’s easy to see why. Our team includes people like Lucy Eaton, who stopped a patient taking their own life at Queen’s Hospital in Romford by holding on to them until help arrived. And Sasha Myrtle, who started her career as a receptionist and now runs our control room. She arranged the security for the pandemic quarantine facility that UK citizens came home to from Wuhan. 

    The men in our team take equal pride in this success; it’s just a normal part of their working day. We ask our managers to send us articles about people’s achievements and I get loads written about the contribution of women. Sifting through them is one of the best bits of my job. 
     

    My advice for women  


    I think it’s a great time to consider a career in the security industry generally, and particularly at Sodexo. The roles are varied, which means the skills we need are too; most people are surprised to learn that empathy is one of the most important traits. There’s also structured progression and support for all kinds of accreditation and training.  

    Are we anywhere near parity in terms of gender split? No. There’s so much more to do. But I know that the men and women in my team are fully committed to our approach and value diversity as much as I do. One thing I can promise you; you’ll get the recognition you deserve. 

     

    Find out more about gender balance