Recently I posted an article on my professional page that stated all the reasons why a female bodyguard is valuable. As a result of that post one of my investigators, a retired female marine and drill instructor re-posted that article on an all-female marine page she belongs to. What was to come was thought-provoking. There were messages from many of the female marines wanting to know more about how they could become a bodyguard, what the requirements were and what licensing exists. And why not, it’s a natural progression. After all, protecting is at the core of what they do.
I was thinking back to my days in law enforcement and how I didn’t know about the profession either. After 15 years in law enforcement, I was well established and in a great place when a security company approached me to submit my resume for a possible opportunity to work with a high-profile client. My law enforcement career was full of great experiences, everything from community policing, teaching, being a SWAT team negotiator, an undercover narcotics detective, just to name a few. I had nothing to lose by submitting my resume and in truth, not knowing who the client was made it simple for me. I did not know it yet, but this was the moment that would propel me into personal protection.
Listen to Monica on the Circuit Magazine Podcast
You see, it was precisely because I was a female, in law enforcement and bilingual that I was selected to move into this new and exciting career. The male client had specifically requested a female. The security company had insisted on a male protection agent however the client did not want a “big burly guy” making it obvious he had security. And so began, my journey into the world of security, afforded to me by the strong convictions of that client. He wanted to go against the typical stereotype of having a huge man in a suit and dark glasses. He was a very prominent powerful man who preferred to be casual and inconspicuous. He was a man who believed in women being in positions of power. I traveled throughout Africa, Mexico and many more places with this client. Next, I went to work for a royal family from the Middle East, who once again requested female security. Arab clients are not comfortable with men being near their wives and daughters and will typically request female security. Since that assignment, I have gone on to work for several clients from the Middle East where I’ve had a lot of professional success. I have also had the honor of working with male security directors who have convinced their clients to incorporate women into their teams. There are many male supporters of women in our profession who will do what it takes to get women on board. In these examples, it was the client and the security managers who specifically stated they needed to have female security on their team.
I believe that the responsibility to ensure a well-rounded, skill-based team is that of the hiring security company and the managers making the decisions while remembering that at the end of the day it’s all about what the client wants! For instance, there was an occasion where I remember being sent home once the client realized I was a female. He had wanted a male; the client chose that and had his reasons for it. I did not take it personally as I understand the climate in which we work, it is always about what makes the client happy! In this example, the client was not briefed on who the lead security would be and while I believe there should be no need to mention gender in a skill-based capacity, this was the client’s prerogative.
In another example, I recently learned about a female agent who had lost out to her male counterpart to travel with the client on an assignment. In reality, there could have been many reasons for making that decision, and having been a team lead, I understand that more often than not the client makes many of these decisions based on their comfort level and specific needs. This may not have been relayed to the female agent, causing her to feel like her skill set was not being appreciated.
The truth is, if the client doesn’t understand that there are women who have the same skillsets as men, or have the misconception that someone must be of a large build to be able to protect them, then they don’t know what they don’t know! Similarly, if women do not know that being a bodyguard is a realistic career option, they too don’t know what they don’t know. It falls upon those already in the industry to change the climate and the parameters in which we work.
As security professionals, team leaders and managers, we have a responsibility to explain to the clients the benefits of having women on their team. This not only diversifies the skills and ability of the team, but it keeps the companies in compliance with federal laws. Many security companies go in front of a potential client and ask very pointedly, “What’s your threat level?”
However, as a security professional, I know that it is much more than a “threat level.” Clients want to know how you propose to protect their image, their safety, their overall wellbeing when they travel and beyond. It is an opportunity to speak to how women blend in easier and are less intimidating, they can be more versatile and adaptable to a variety of situations. If gender is never brought up by the client then it is incumbent upon us to make sure the security teams are diversified not only in terms of speciality i.e. medics, first responders, tactical preparedness, negotiators, martial artists, linguists, analysts, logistics, etc. but also in terms of race and gender.
I have been asked many times to write about my experiences in the world of security but the truth is I was not prepared to do such a thing until now. I always felt like I still have a lot to learn; always be a student, never stop learning. However, I also recognize that I have had a unique career. I now dedicate a lot of my time to providing motivation and encouragement for women entering the male-dominated world of security. My goal is to encourage woman, and those little girls who are watching today’s female bodyguards. I also encourage men who are fathers, husbands and partners, men in general, to be supportive and encouraging to the women in their lives. A big part of our responsibility is to listen intently to each other and encourage one another to be the best at everything we do. Only then can we make a positive impact in others’ lives.
I must state for clarity and transparency that while I have worked the corporate side of protection, the majority of my experience has been with corporate families, individuals and royals. I cannot speak to the climate of the corporate executive protection world; however, I have noticed an increase in women working in the corporate realm. Corporate clients are who I worked for while in Puerto Rico and although the clients insisted on men only, the security company I was working for made it clear, a female security professional was ready to go and was very competent. One thing should be very clear, this is not a prima-donna, glorified job for the weak-minded. You can get hurt on the job. A very well-respected Navy Seal I had the distinct honor of working with once said, “Fake the Funk.” I must add however that this is not the kind of job you just “wing it”. There are female agents who have been stabbed, shot at, and more. The point is that this is not a career to take lightly! You must be prepared to take a bullet and have the ability to take action even in countries where you are not allowed to carry a firearm.
Many articles have been written and continue to be written about women in security. However, there are still many who are struggling to get the next detail, the next contract, or even the next big one… that long-term client or corporate protection job! If you are a woman in the industry and you aren’t struggling, you have a duty to mentor others. However, I do understand that sometimes it’s difficult simply because you’re not quite sure how you got there yourself! Mentoring others can be done by simply showing support and by giving advice. You can also give a simple motivational nudge to keep on fighting. Encourage other women to continue working toward seriously being considered for the big contracts; the corporate executives, the “A” list Hollywood stars, or VIP’s from the Middle East. In all fairness, men struggle too, though possibly not quite as much as women. We as women must strive to be the best at what we do and have the ability to showcase those skills whenever possible. As an individual, man or woman, you must take ownership of your success! Failure is what creates the stepping stones to greatness. If you are struggling, revamp or restructure your resume, get a better headshot, and be prepared to be put to the test. And lastly, a major reason for having success in this industry has been undoubtedly the support that comes from other successful women, female protection agents supporting and boosting other female agents and the men that have their backs! The change of incorporating women in protection was started a long time ago and has gained momentum, keep it going! We’re all on the same team.
Value Driven Integration – Women in Protection
By: Monica Duperon Rodriguez
Mónica Duperon Rodriguez has over 30 years of combined law enforcement, close protection, and global event security management experience. She has worked Anti-Human Trafficking/Sex Trafficking, Anti-Poaching efforts, Gangs, SWAT Hostage Negotiator, Undercover Narcotics Detective, and Police Training throughout Africa, South America, Mexico, United States, Canada and Europe. Monica is currently the Americas Safety and Security Manager to include head of Global Events Security for a tech company in Silicon Valley.