The theme for International Women’s Day 2020 is collective individualism. Highlighting the contribution of individual efforts to the collective advancement of women’s rights; be it through thoughts or actions. We can consciously choose to challenge stereotypes and reject biases.
This year, we are doing a two-part series into organizations empowering women and promoting gender equality in their respective fields.
Equality is not just a women’s issue. Businesses can take initiative and be trailblazers by providing opportunities and support for women through their organizational culture. One such company is Lady Askari, an innovative, female-focused risk management company changing the face of security in Kenya through their values and beliefs.
Currently, the security sector locally and globally is male-dominated. Security is often synonymous with physical strength and masculinity. As a result, women have been denied opportunities to participate and advance in the industry. As the name suggests, Lady Askari is determined to provide opportunities for women to pursue careers in the security sector. We sat with the founders of Lady Askari, James and Sienna to learn about Lady Askari and what they intend to achieve.
How did the idea of Lady Askari come about?
Based on my personal experiences in diplomatic security, we recognised that there are challenges and conflicts women are better equipped to handle. Inspired by the women in our lives, we attest that women are competent and have the skillset to be successful in the security industry. However, they lack the experience and the opportunities to do so.
Therefore, Lady Askari has taken it upon themselves to be pioneers in the industry and employ women for positions across the security sector in Kenya.
Why do you think women have yet to be given opportunities to participate in the security sector?
It is two-fold. Firstly, the idea that men have been equated to security has created an entry barrier for women. Secondly, security companies avoid hiring women because they are concerned about maternity leave and other issues that affect women, which they believe are costly and disrupt business. This has created an entry barrier for women in the industry. As a result, women do not have the skills and therefore, cannot progress up the career ladder.
However, James Dutkowski points out that these arguments are unfounded. Security requires mental capabilities more than physical prowess. There are areas in security such as evaluating threats and mitigating risks that do not require traditional strength and can be performed by women. Lady Askari will focus on these niche segments which demand mental competence such as security management and analysis, crisis and emergency response, and close protection before expanding into other segments in the security industry.
Nonetheless, they acknowledge the actions of Lady Askari are only the beginning in changing how women are perceived in the security industry.
How does Lady Askari plan to help women interested in careers in the security industry?
We are providing the opportunity for women interested in a career in the industry. However, it is not just about placing a woman; it is about placing the right woman with the skillset for the position. To ensure that we are placing the most capable women, we are focusing on capacity building which includes training, shadowing and plenty of information to assist them in their career progression. More so, we know that the success of our people is our success, as such we will plan and budget for obstacles that previously prevented women from progressing like maternity leave or the transition back to work after having children.
We know we are not going to change the perception of women in the industry by ourselves. It is going to take us, global initiatives and other businesses in the industry to be able to move things along.
What has been the feedback of the public to Lady Askari and where do you hope to be in 10 years?
So far, it’s been a dialogue and a positive one at that. People are interested in the concept of Lady Askari. Through exposure and messaging, we are seeing people question why this has not happened before.
In 10 -20 years, we hope to be out of business because every security company is hiring women. Instead of being another organization working hard to support and elevate women within the industry, we hope to be another risk management company advancing in the industry as women in the industry is the norm.
To find out more about Lady Askari, visit their website here, or their offices are Ikigai Nairobi.
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