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Women of security: Sharon Haye



Sharon's path in security started some 20+ years ago when she achieved her childhood ambition of becoming a Police Officer with Northamptonshire Police in 1997. After Sharon left policing, she undertook a variety of corporate security management roles in a variety of sectors, retail, construction, logistics and the NHS. Sharon was then encouraged by people she already knew on the UK circuit to gain her CP licence.


Being the only woman on the course provided an opportunity for Sharon to train with ex-military personnel and for her fellow male colleagues to learn how to conduct tasks where female principals are involved. For the entire time they were on the course, Sharon was part of the team, and was never made to feel any less than her male counterparts. If anything, they learned how to utilise each other’s skill sets more effectively, and Sharon's as it turned out was report writing and so she was charged with writing the warning orders for the end of course task.


Read Sharon's journey to the sector in her interview for Minerva.



Could you describe your journey that led you into the security sector. What was your first role and how did you find this opportunity?


My path in security has been extremely varied and interesting, from the early days as a police officer, through security management to now working in data security or information governance. My first ever role was a police officer and I always wanted to be an officer from an early age so as soon as I was old enough I began looking at forces I wanted to join. There were two, Thames Valley and Northamptonshire, something about my force of choice Northamptonshire stood out for me and it became the one I eventually joined. As a result of policing, I’ve gone on to do so much, all due to the grounding I got from being a police officer, the formal investigation training, report writing and strength of character and generally being prepared to help others however I can.

What makes you passionate about the security sector?


If anything happens, I want to be in a position of knowledge and authority to be able do something about it and being in a position to make a difference, taking action and having the authority to do it are all major drivers for me. I’m not a very good backseat passenger and I like to be able to play a part in keeping people safe, getting the perpetrator and making life generally better for all, particularly the vulnerable and those less able.

What role do you think women play in the security industry?


Women are great strategical thinkers, organisers and make excellent investigators due to an innate need to know and understand process. The industry shows that women can take on challenging situations and circumstances and resolve matters in different ways that are not always obvious or tangible. For example, women are very good at reading a change in mood dynamically and defusing potential conflict without escalating the situation. It isn’t about pandering to the aggressor, it’s about keeping the situation safe, bringing things to a safe conclusion for all and getting the job done.

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


Yes I do. I am not saying it’s easy, as nothing worthwhile is easy, but the opportunities are there especially in government agencies and the UK security services. Not all opportunities that exist are necessarily ‘frontline’, the choice people have to make should encompass what environments interests them the most. Do employers have to create more opportunities? I’m not so sure, more perhaps highlighting the ones that are already there.

Yes I do. I am not saying it’s easy, as nothing worthwhile is easy, but the opportunities are there especially in government agencies and the UK security services. Not all opportunities that exist are necessarily ‘frontline’, the choice people have to make should encompass what environments interests them the most.

What do you consider your biggest successes throughout your career?


Oh gosh, being able to use my Italian language skills through work was a major one for me, I lived there many years ago and it was always a dream of mine to go back and work there, and of course converse as part of my job.


Also spearheading a major research project on ethnic minority recruitment for my force while I was quite young in service, was quite a contentious area to work on, and was uncomfortable at times. Pleased to say I received a letter of acknowledgment from the ACC for that. It’s of no surprise to me that many of the issues tackled are still with us today more than 20 years later.


Writing my first security themed article for the well-regarded industry publication TPSO was massive for me and was well received. Working for myself for a short while was always something I wanted to do and being a site Head of Security was a major achievement for the world’s biggest online retailer and one I would love to achieve again, so watch this space!


What have been the biggest challenges in your career?


Getting knocked back from joining Northamptonshire Police twice before being accepted at the third attempt. Fighting old attitudes and perceptions is another. Racism and misogyny raising their ugly heads in this sector, both thrown at the police service all too often but the bigger issues lie elsewhere in the industry in my view.


Only two years ago I was on a CP job, flew halfway across the world, for an officer on another team to say to my TL, ‘oh you didn’t tell us she was black’! I spent the rest of that task getting under his nose and letting him know I wasn’t going anywhere for amusement. Not getting dragged down and being bitter when racism has raised its ugly head is the only way to win in these situations. Dealing with recruiters and employers who think that only an ex-mil man can lead is my modern bone of contention.


But, ultimately battling my own negative self-think has been my greatest challenge, pushing through when others wouldn’t have hesitated. Pacing myself and learning why things haven’t gone the way I planned and using that learning for the future. I’m now so much better at thinking through what I’d like to do next and what I need to do to make things happen for myself.

What does the word ‘security’ mean to you?


It means feeling safe and protected, in anything and everything I do. Ultimately it means good people standing, and keeping watch, making sure those who would do us ill cannot prosper. Security is full of likeminded individuals keeping everyone else safe all day long and I feel good about knowing I’ve been one of those people.

Do you have any role models or mentors who have inspired your journey?


Muhammad Ali, MLK, Malcom X, Tupac Shakur but most importantly my parents and my sisters Connie and Elaine. My Dad, in particular told me I can do and be whatever I want at a time and a pace that suits me.


Muhammad Ali, MLK, Malcom X, Tupac Shakur but most importantly my parents and my sisters Connie and Elaine. My Dad, in particular told me I can do and be whatever I want at a time and a pace that suits me.

They all taught me not to worry about what the next person is doing and to concentrate on what I need to do to get to where I want to be. To be strong when life gets tough and to keep my head up and handle it.

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


I’d start off by saying don’t be afraid to ask for help, there are so many in the industry doing great work, just because you don’t see them, doesn’t mean they are not there. LinkedIn and Twitter are great places to start. People love to share their opinion, and their work and these are excellent places to identify potential sources of help.


There are also lots of free online courses that can give you a convenient way to learn about various aspects of security like cyber and data security, and getting certificated can give you an edge over other candidates starting out.


Also attend as many free online webinars as you can as you very often get a variety of perspectives on current issues from industry leaders and of course you get to find out who they are, what they do and become part of their connected network.


Lastly I’d say, don’t ever ask for permission to do something or be someone, if you don’t try you’ll never know how great you are.

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