#GenerationEquality: Women Equalising in the Security Industry

Jody  Appleton, Group IT Director, and family

Pic­ture this in your mind — three peo­ple walk­ing into an office: a com­pa­ny IT direc­tor, a field oper­a­tions man­ag­er and a com­put­er (CAD) technician. 

With just 16% of infor­ma­tion tech­nol­o­gy employ­ees female, and even less than that work­ing in the secu­ri­ty sec­tor in the UK, it is not sur­pris­ing if the major­i­ty of peo­ple pic­ture men in any or all of the above roles. March 8th is Inter­na­tion­al Women’s Day, and prop­er­ty and secu­ri­ty man­age­ment spe­cial­ist, VPS, sought out some of their female employ­ees work­ing in tra­di­tion­al­ly male roles to talk about their careers.

Ellen Shok­er is a Com­put­er Aid­ed Design (CAD) and Build­ing Infor­ma­tion Mod­el­ling (BIM) tech­ni­cian, in her ear­ly for­ties. As a young CAD tech­ni­cian, I start­ed doing very sim­ple archi­tec­tur­al draw­ings. Before I knew it, I was already doing var­i­ous draw­ing dis­ci­plines which chal­lenged me to learn more skills.

What I do here in VPS is anoth­er type of dis­ci­pline which I haven’t done before.” Ellen pro­duces tech­ni­cal draw­ings from engi­neers’ site sur­veys, from which the best-fit secu­ri­ty solu­tions can be deter­mined, cit­ing not only where CCTV tow­ers, detec­tors, ana­lyt­ic and sta­t­ic cam­eras can be locat­ed, but also where there are hid­den blind spots, lead­ing to revi­sion of the final secu­ri­ty plans for their UK and Euro­pean clients. 

Speak­ing from my per­spec­tive as a moth­er, I think one of the biggest issues that I and oth­er work­ing moth­ers face today is the flex­i­bil­i­ty of our work­ing sched­ule. It is dif­fi­cult bal­anc­ing work and fam­i­ly life and I believe flexi-time will be able to help.” Ellen says, who not only works in a male-dom­i­nat­ed envi­ron­ment, but also has the unusu­al acco­lade of two bach­e­lor of sci­ence degrees, one in civ­il engi­neer­ing and one in architecture. 

Kirsty Sem­ple comes from a com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent back­ground from IT. She began her career work­ing as part of a clean & clear’ team, spe­cial­iz­ing in remov­ing waste, both reg­u­lar and haz­ardous, before becom­ing a Super­vi­sor. Last year she gained pro­mo­tion to Field Oper­a­tions Man­ag­er. I’m proud of becom­ing an FOM. To suc­ceed, you have to work hard, show will­ing­ness to be quick off the mark to own and solve any issues that come up in this very intense area to man­age. The secu­ri­ty busi­ness is still very much a man’s envi­ron­ment, and there is still a bat­tle to show that women can do the exact same jobs, some­times better”

Back in the world of IT, Jody Apple­ton start­ed out in a project office role on a Y2K pro­gramme, at the time when there was a glob­al con­cern about the impact of Mil­len­ni­um bug, at Bar­clays Tech­nol­o­gy Services. 

But it was a three year stint as Chief of Staff to the new Avi­va Group CIO that gave me the oppor­tu­ni­ty to learn so much and helped me under­stand that there isn’t any busi­ness that can run effec­tive­ly with­out tech­nol­o­gy and that IT is tru­ly an enabler. After a fur­ther stint in the insur­ance sec­tor, I was con­tact­ed by the head­hunter lead­ing the search for Group IT Direc­tor for VPS, and so here I am!”

I would advise young women inter­est­ed in IT to check out some of the options avail­able like Girls who Code’, Bar­clays Dig­i­tal Eagles and so on. There are two big issues for women in the work­place — we some­times lack in con­fi­dence in our own abil­i­ty or as our approach tends to be more col­lab­o­ra­tive and qui­eter than some of our male col­leagues, we can tend to stand back a lit­tle. My advice is to be proud of what you have achieved, be con­fi­dent that you can make a dif­fer­ence, and accept that it’s ok to oper­ate dif­fer­ent­ly to oth­ers around you. And sec­ond­ly I’ve expe­ri­enced and seen a num­ber occa­sions when oth­er women have put oth­er women down, rather than pro­vid­ing sup­port. It can be tough out there so you’d hope that the sis­ter­hood’ stood togeth­er, but actu­al­ly there are a num­ber of women that want to score points by push­ing down oth­er women – this is not accept­able in my book so don’t be afraid to call it out if you see it or expe­ri­ence it.”

The full inter­views with these, and oth­er women, can be seen, updat­ed dai­ly with a new inter­view, on LinkedIn at https://​www​.linkedin​.com/​c​o​m​p​a​n​y​/​v​p​s​-​t​h​e​-​v​a​c​a​n​t​-​p​r​o​p​e​r​t​y​-​s​p​e​c​i​a​l​i​s​t​s​/​?​v​i​e​w​A​s​M​e​m​b​e​r​=true