Kate Warne is an iconic historical figure in the detective and investigative field. Back in 1856, she walked into the Chicago office of the Pinkerton Detective Agency seeking a job opportunity. It was immediately thought that she was interested in a secretarial or office position. Instead, she was extremely proactive in making her case for the agency to hire their first woman detective. 

She was convincing enough to make that idea sound not as crazy as the initial shared opinion by the men in charge. Kate’s hiring opened the door for women in the investigative and security field, but although landing the job was impressive, it was only the very first step. She indelibly left her mark on the industry by being able to successfully put her vision into motion and achieve everything she enthusiastically expressed during that Chicago job interview. This roundtable article features three prominent women security experts with international positions.

  • Ginger Happe | Director of Operations | Washington DC | USA
  • Ellen Lemire | Director of Operations | Boston, MA | USA
  • Tatiana Scatena do Valle | Managing Director | Latin America (based in Brazil)

Together, they will explore the scope of the role of women today with respect to Kate Warne, who single-handedly changed the landscape hundreds of years ago.

Kate was a very positive influence and inspiration to many women in the investigative, security and law enforcement fields. How has she been an inspiration to you as a female agent in the industry?

Ellen Lemire: Kate Warne – fantastic! She knew exactly what she was capable of and was willing to push it even further. Kate was willing to disguise as anything – even a man. She was a real investigator, and it is truly amazing to now work for a company that started out this way and really opened doors.

This discussion raises the question of where women security professionals are coming from today, and what background and education is prevalent. With men, Brian Tuskan talked about the fact that many transition from law enforcement into fields like the corporate investigations discipline. Do you find that to be similar for women?

Tatiana Scatena do Valle: Some women who currently work out in the field are not from a law enforcement background. We don’t see much from police forces transitioning to a new position, or law enforcement retirees. Here in the South American region, most came from other areas of experience and expertise.

Ellen Lemire: There are a good number of female college students with their eye on an investigative or security career, and some come from a medical background which can be a plus out in the field. Resumes are very diverse, many from the military, National Guard, and a good number in the area where I started – as a lawyer and former prosecutor. 

Ginger Happe: Military is a great background to come from, particularly because women have already experienced how to deal with a male-dominated culture there, and have gained invaluable skills. A woman who is well rounded, and who understands the psychology and business of relations will often flourish, and find her own success. It is definitely an advantage.

What can you all share related to “respect” for women in the securities field. Does it come immediately, or is it something that accrues over time?

Ginger Happe: You have to earn it! Everyone sees you work, and evaluates how you work, and you gain respect once they realize that you can handle it. It also helps to know how to build good working relationships. 

Ellen Lemire: Dealing with various personalities – you always need to be tactful. Women can’t take any flack – and have to be proactive. Women are each other’s biggest supporter, and know the benefits of working together with everyone. We have to maintain a no-nonsense professional approach at all times.

What do you feel are the challenges unique to women working in the securities industry?

Ellen Lemire: There might be a perception that there are jobs that only men can do, so women need to educate clients on what a quality product can be. Realization is coming that this is true – push back is no longer effective – and any prejudice will not keep up with the world as it is now. 

Tatiana Scatena do Valle: There are certainly challenges, including fitting in socially as well. Women are the minority in the security industry, but are steadily becoming an accepted high value addition.

It is well acknowledged that Kate Warne was able to do many things better than men decades ago. She could infiltrate into certain circles that a man would not be able to, and thus gain intelligence that could be the difference maker in an investigation. With this in mind, could you elaborate on what you feel women can do better than men today?

Ginger Happe: Dealing with very sensitive information is one area. Women can do that very well. Another is that women are generally better at multi-tasking. I have a good example I experienced where a woman on the team really made a difference. There was a mass employment termination at a client’s site, and a particular employee became quite hostile during the process. Instead of a rough escort out of the building, a women team member just put her arm around the woman, talked to her with compassion and empathy, and was then able to peacefully achieve her exit from the premises. Women can be – when necessary – more comforting and gentler. I feel that a two person team – one man and one woman – can often be a plus. 

Women in the security industry today are out in the field and in controlling strategic positions. Many work in armed executive protection, and are experts in active shooter situations. Just like Kate Warne from yester-year, they are finding that careers as security professionals are both challenging and rewarding. They are also finding that there are open opportunities to succeed in any area, bringing expertise and innovation from their education, experience and previous private sector work into their work and assignments at top security agencies.

Published June 01, 2015