Canadian women in the security sector
By Giulia Di Iorio
“Find or be a mentor,” advises Iryna Sheremetova, Loss Prevention and Security Director for Inditex. “Your mentor should be a business savvy professional in the security industry who you might find at your ASIS chapter or at your company.”
By Giulia Di Iorio
Today’s security professional is part of a multicultural work force and represents a variety of ethnic, racial, religious and gender backgrounds.
Despite the workplace diversity in the security sector, some people still believe that the average security employee is a male with military or law enforcement experience. While men still represent the majority of employees in Canada’s security sector, more and more women are gravitating to the field, attracted to the wide array of opportunities that are available.
Security is one of the fastest growing professional careers worldwide. Today, more and more security companies are employing women in a wide variety of positions including security professionals, administrative and executive positions. While security was not traditionally a sector that most women considered to build their careers, the landscape has shifted dramatically. It has been an evolution, rather than a revolution, that has attracted the diverse population of employees who now serve as our country’s security professionals. The issues and threats that exist today are quite different than those of 20 years ago, as is the demand for a multicultural and diverse workforce to creatively and collaboratively address them.
Women provide a unique contribution in the ever changing security field, regardless of their background. I had no family or friends in the security or law enforcement sectors to influence me into the industry. Rather, I became interested in the field as a human resources specialist. Today, I am the General Manager for the Montreal branch where I oversee the Province of Quebec operations.
Today’s Security Leaders
Iryna Sheremetova is the Loss Prevention and Security Director for Inditex, one of the world’s leading fashion retailers and is responsible for the security of 42 stores in Canada. Sheremetova, who was born and raised in Ukraine, emigrated to Toronto and was drawn to analytics and languages. Fluent in English, French, Russian and Ukrainian, Sheremetova graduated college with a degree in Linguistic Education. After she finished college, an administrative position at Inditex led to her appointment in security.
“My manager appreciated my understanding of business analytics and had his eye on me for the right opportunity,” recalls Sheremetova. “The company put me through rigorous security training including the Wiklander-Zulawski certification, which is a world-leading investigative interview training protocol.”
Today, Sheremetova ensures that all loss prevention and security policies are implemented and executed by all employees and security contractors. She oversees new store launches ensuring that CCTV plans, burglar systems and all physical security elements are in place and conducts internal investigations and interviews employees who are suspected of internal theft. She organizes stock take cycles, analyzes inventories with RFID technology and trains all loss prevention staff, retail managers and store employees on loss control and prevention measures.
“Collaborating with law enforcement to investigate and solve external theft and fraud cases is critically important,” says Sheremetova, who says she has the highest respect for the Canadian police across all provinces.
Education and Training
What are the qualities and background Canadian women need to thrive in the security business?
“Join ASIS International Canada, an association dedicated to increasing the effectiveness and productivity of security professionals,” says Josephine Ngo, CHRP, CHRL, Regional Human Resources Manager at Allied Universal who is seeing more and more women apply for security positions. “Take the Certified Protection Professional (CPP) exam from ASIS which allows you to become Board Certified in Security Management which is similar to what a CPA is for accountants.”
“When you attend ASIS events, you are able to meet and connect with many other women in the security sector, at all different levels, who work in different industries,” says Kiara Medeiros, Human Resources Coordinator at Allied Universal. “It is empowering and encouraging for women in security to speak with other women who face the same issues and overcome similar obstacles.”
“Find or be a mentor,” advises Sheremetova. “Your mentor should be a business savvy professional in the security industry who you might find at your ASIS chapter or at your company.”
Building a career at a security company is an admirable path for women. While many Canadian women don’t think of the security sector as a path to executive leadership, the reality is that it is a growing industry that demands dedicated women (and men) to lead it.
“Interestingly, younger women don’t look at the security industry as being male dominated,” says Ngo. “They look at the security industry as an outstanding industry to build an executive career in.”
In addition to mentors and opportunities on the job, joining a security association is recommended. In addition to ASIS International Canada, WIIS-Canada is a national network dedicated to promote women’s leadership in international security. The association “aims to enhance the potential of their members throughout their careers by opening doors and offering valuable resources.”
WIIS-Canada was founded in 2007, after founding member Stéfanie von Hlatky attended a WIIS-Global symposium in Washington, D.C. In 2008, the first Annual Workshop was held, and since then, the work and influence of WIIS-Canada has grown, as the network has grown.
Take advantage of the training programs your company offers. Contract security firms should offer comprehensive training programs to all employees.
“Find out what your company offers and go through the training,” advises Ngo. “Many people start in contract security as security professionals and junior administrative staff and work their way up to district managers, vice presidents, and beyond. Training helps them get there.”
“Brush up on your communication skills,” adds Sheremetova. “While women tend to be good communicators, it helps to become comfortable in public speaking which enhances your communication skills with employees, clients and upper management.”
In today’s business world, the successful team is a blend of the best men and women. As the security industry continues to evolve and tap into the greatest talent and resources, we will continue to see more and more women as senior leaders, middle managers and new entrants to the field. The security sector offers unparalleled opportunity across multiple disciplines.
“Women should not be caught in the old mythology about what she can or cannot do,” says Sheremetova. “Women should know that there is nothing they cannot do if they set their mind to it.”
Based in Montreal, Giulia Di Iorio is General Manager at Allied Universal.