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Women of security: Phoebe Worthington





Phoebe, a geopolitical analyst for a leading intelligence consultancy, shares her journey in the security sector, the challenges she has faced so far and her advice to other young women hoping to forge a career in geopolitical analysis.



How would you describe the ‘security industry’ and the work you do for someone who isn’t aware of what the sector involves?


The security industry itself is very broad, encompassing everything from private investigation, the provision of operational security, to work like my own which involves the strategic forecasting of politics and security across the globe. This involves dedicated research and analysis for a variety of clients which have included NGOs, major businesses and even government interests. The reports I write range from forecasting the outcome of an election to explaining the evolving threat of militancy in a region. This means that every day is different and whilst this is almost always challenging, I find I am never bored.


Few people know that this area of work exists or understand fully what it entails. I think this is such a shame as it such a stimulating sector and one of the most direct ways to work in geopolitical affairs when compared to other routes - such as the consular services or NGOs, where job opportunities for graduates are often elusive.


Few people know that this area of work exists or understand fully what it entails. I think this is such a shame as it such a stimulating sector and one of the most direct ways to work in geopolitical affairs when compared to other routes - such as the consular services or NGOs, where job opportunities for graduates are often elusive.


Could you describe the journey that lead you to your current role?


I have worked in this sector for over three years now. My first degree was Theology and part of this involved the study of the religious dimensions of conflict. This was the area I ultimately chose to focus on, and I wrote my undergraduate dissertation on the US led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) coalition involvement in Afghanistan. This resulted in me being invited to present to military, academic and security industry audiences. I eventually secured a role as an intern and then found full time work as an analyst.



Do you think there is good career progression opportunities for women in the industry? What could be done in your opinion to create more opportunities?


I think there have been some positive changes over the past few years, particularly at getting younger women employed into the sector but I think that more needs to be done to promote women into leadership positions, especially at the board level. I also think that there should be a greater focus on employing women in roles in which they are currently poorly represented. Whilst the gender balance in analytical or editorial roles is relatively good there are often less woman represented in areas such as crisis management or travel risk. This is why something like the website SheTravel which was founded in 2019 is such an inspiring initiative - now providing dedicated advice to women travelling from other women who have first-hand experience of these locations.


I also think that there should be a greater focus on employing women in roles in which they are currently poorly represented. Whilst the gender balance in analytical or editorial roles is relatively good there are often less woman represented in areas such as crisis management or travel risk.

What have been the biggest challenges in your career?


One of the companies I worked for had a particularly toxic culture which increasingly began to impact on my wellbeing as well as that of my colleagues. What was particularly disheartening was that when I sought help from senior female personnel it was ignored, which meant my position became untenable. It wasn’t until I resigned and moved onto subsequent places of employment that I realised that this was an extreme case which simply wasn’t normal in the industry. In many ways it is a positive thing to have gone through, as it will be easy for me to identify such issues in future and make me prepared to both stand up for myself as well as for others.



If you could give advice to your younger you, what would it be?


It is important to remember that no one in your life is going to make it their role to ensure you have a good career, this is entirely up to you so you have to have the courage to stand up for yourself. When you get offered a job particularly when you are just starting out in your career it is very easy to feel indebted to your employer, but it’s important to remember that you ultimately wouldn’t be employed unless you were providing a valuable service and so you shouldn’t forget your own self-worth.



Is there any advice you would give for younger women who would look to start their careers in this sector? Where could they find out about the roles and career paths?


The most valuable advice I have been given has been from other senior women within the same sector who I have befriended at networking events or through LinkedIn. These women have given me the confidence to push myself and continue to be my role models. It's important to be unafraid of approaching people or reaching out via established networks, especially if it’s under the pretext of seeking advice. The worst they can do is say no but generally I think people find it fulfilling and enriching to provide guidance to others who are starting out.


The most valuable advice I have been given has been from other senior women within the same sector who I have befriended at networking events or through LinkedIn. These women have given me the confidence to push myself and continue to be my role models. It's important to be unafraid of approaching people or reaching out via established networks, especially if it’s under the pretext of seeking advice.

Taking internship positions are also often a good place to start as this will give you exposure to the industry and allow you to build relationships. There are also communities such as OSAC and WIIS which have mentorship programs and stage networking events for women in the sector. Being visible at fora such as RUSI, Chatham House, IISS and other think tanks also enhances your awareness and exposure within the industry.

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