Women in Close Protection
The blog has been written by Kate who qualified as a Close Protection Officer (bodyguard) in 2013 after having spent my career working with wealthy low and high-profile private clients in Private and Family Offices. I started my career as a personal assistant and managed full spectrum staffing teams including all-male bodyguards and wider security teams.
It was in managing these close protection teams I started to realise my own preconception of the industry to be that of a male dominated workforce, until I was asked to do the training myself by my then Head of Security. He explained that my unique skills having worked for so long with the clients would perfectly complement the military, law enforcement and government / public sector backgrounds of the others on the team. The course itself was hugely enjoyable, there was another woman also on the course, and I learned a lot about the role of the softer skills, planning and logistics that I had been used to previously, as well as the UK laws governing how to protect and how to look out for others, and using appropriate physical intervention skills where needed. Becoming operational meant that I was working with a variety of clients from varied backgrounds, mostly as part of mixed gender teams. It was when I was asked where the other ‘women bodyguards’ were by one client I knew there was demand for more female close protection operatives like me.
The Increasing Demand for Female Bodyguards
I noticed then after becoming operational that female bodyguard services were increasing in demand and my network of women in the industry in my world increased. I have always been very visible in the industry through choice, to be there to support, mentor and guide others into the industry. My male counterparts have always helped to grow the networks, by recommending us to each other and helping spread the word around how useful a diverse team is to keep clients safe.
Roles and Advantages of Female Bodyguards
The Role and Services of Female Bodyguards
Alongside the rest of the personal protection teams, I first experienced how useful my role was when working with female clients and families. Often there are cultural nuances when working with clients from certain cultures, for example the Middle East and Gulf regions.
I saw firsthand how the Middle Eastern clients I knew benefitted from mixed gender teams, and how used they were to female close protection officers being around them, and how it made simple tasks like ensuring smooth running of managing personal spaces when in hotel environments for example.
The Unique Skills and Advantages
I’ve always said that a diverse blend of all experience, backgrounds and skills is the best form of protection, and mixed gender teams are a great example of this blend – giving extra skills including my own private sector and client experience of now over two decades. When combined with others from more traditional backgrounds the teamwork ethos and dynamic is extremely high performing.
A Review of the Industry
The Challenges and Misconceptions in the Industry
I spend a lot of my time explaining how useful mixed gender teams can be to clients and more broadly – and a lot of women might not think it is a job they can do, that it is all about brute force and strength. I maintain my own physical fitness of course, but I would always say that my mental and cognitive function is equally, if not more important, in most high stress environments, so a team needs to keep themselves holistically healthy in order to ensure the safety of their clients.
The Need for More Women in Close Protection Roles
As modern risk has evolved, the private security industry has needed to evolve and adapt. The modern private client, regardless of whether they are a ‘High Net Worth Individual’ as it is often known, or Ultra High Net Worth Individual (often abbreviated to HNWI and UHNWI) needs more security than ever before. There are only 6.88% women of the 16k+ CP license holders in the UK currently and an increase in the proportion would be great to see to satisfy this increase in demand.
The Future of Women in the Close Protection Industry
The world continues to move from crisis to crisis and in this permacrisis world, the role of, and importance around security has grown with it. The need for invisible security and a security team to reflect the client base (and society) it protects is ever more important.
I am a proud Close Protection License holder and encourage any women from backgrounds as diverse as professional sport and former private sector like myself to apply – alongside encouraging more women from military, police, law enforcement and other similar backgrounds. There are now, more than ever before ways we can as a sector all support each other, from the brilliant industry bodies such as the Security Institute to the Security Livery Company. Continuous Professional Development (CPD) across a range of skills ensures I regularly meet people from outside of my own private client area and ensures that I keep my ‘boots on the ground’ knowledge sharp. I am always available through LinkedIn to help support anyone looking to find their way in and help navigate to the training and networks to kickstart their career.
Kate is a Chartered Security Professional with 25 years of frontline private client facing experience in the Private and Family Office sector as a Personal Assistant, Executive Assistant, Chief of Staff and Family Office Manager, moving on to becoming a Close Protection (CP) Operative, and finally a Secure Lifestyle Advisor as CEO & Founder of UMBRA International Group.
UMBRA is a unique Security Concierge and Secure Lifestyle services business, working across the generations of international clients and their families. Under Kate’s leadership, UMBRA is on a mission to make security and the industry more accessible – she kickstarted the UMBRA Academy to underscore the impact and sustainability commitments of the business. She regularly speaks on the topic of Invisible Security, having been asked to deliver a Tedx talk in 2018. She was shortlisted as Entrepreneurial Woman of the Year in the City wealth Awards in 2019.
Kate is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, and a Companion of the Institute of Leadership and Management. She also sits on the British Army Gender Advisory Council and is a Liveryman of the City of London.
Kate is an ambassador for the Veteran charities ‘Supporting Wounded Veterans’ and ‘Veterans Aid’. She is also a Trustee of the Worshipful Company of Security Professionals Charitable Trust, delivering ‘Kindness In Security’ to those struggling in the security industry, and the Hypatia Foundation, which focusses on gender impact philanthropy. She has a personal interest in making an impact in the areas of reduction of violence against women and girls as well as domestic abuse and bringing more diversity into the boardroom. She mentors young people, especially those struggling to find their way.