Women of Loss Prevention
Loss prevention has evolved significantly over the past several decades. Yet as far as we have come, there are still mountains to climb.
Talented, driven, intelligent, and capable women have long been an integral part of the LP industry, but the profession is still largely male-dominated. Why? Is it the general perception women have of the profession? Is it the potential physical aspects of the job, the culture of the times, or other choices available to women? Is it the way women are treated or perceived within the industry? Is it something else? How do women feel about their role in LP?
The US edition of LP Magazine surveyed 500 women of LP across the United States to find out. The content summarised here represents a high-level overview of the survey results. Those interested in a more detailed perspective of survey results and comments should visit losspreventionmedia.com/free-reports.
The Women of LP survey provides a unique, comprehensive look at how women view their current roles in our industry, how they feel they are perceived as industry professionals, the role they feel gender and gender bias has played in their ongoing career opportunities, and the responsibility that every LP professional holds to remain accountable for their own career growth and development.
The goal of the survey was to provide an objective window into the thoughts, ideas, and opinions of the women of LP regarding these key areas and to open doors for additional discussion. By offering an anonymous venue for women to openly voice their views on these topics, we gained a more complete and comprehensive understanding of how the women of LP perceive these important questions and perhaps can spark fresh thoughts and ideas on how we can best address these topics to further enhance our LP teams.
Invitations to participate were extended through several different outlets. Participation was limited exclusively to women with experience in the profession. In order to most accurately represent the thoughts and opinions of all women in the industry, we did not further limit participation based on experience levels or other qualities. All participants were informed that their participation would remain anonymous to further encourage honest, open, and complete responses.
Respondents represented diverse experience levels, backgrounds, positions, aspirations, and career responsibility within the industry, which provided comprehensive views and opinions of the various subjects discussed from within all levels of the LP structure.
Approximately 90 per cent of respondents reported that LP was not their original choice as a career path. One in four participants started their careers in retail LP and have remained in that role. Nearly three out of four indicated they began their careers in an area outside of LP, with approximately half indicating they started their careers in retail but in a function other than LP.
The women who participated in our survey overwhelmingly felt they have the opportunity to further their careers in LP if they choose to do so, with 90 per cent of respondents agreeing that advancement is attainable. A majority of 70 per cent also felt they have the same opportunity to further their careers in LP as a man would have, and 79 per cent felt their companies are doing an effective job of recruiting female talent into LP. Similarly, most felt their companies are doing an effective job of developing female talent for LP leadership roles (78% agreed) and promoting gender diversity with their LP programmes (82% agreed).
Despite these encouraging outcomes, some areas resulted in very mixed responses. The respondents were evenly split when asked whether they felt they missed out on a raise, promotion, key assignment, or chance to get ahead simply because they were female, with 53 per cent agreeing and 47 per cent disagreeing that this had been an issue. Similarly, they disagreed on whether an opportunity for a position or promotion was negatively impacted due to gender, with responses divided between those who agreed (40%) and those who disagreed (60%).
As one might expect, respondents’ comments were also diverse, many offering incidents, examples, and/or beliefs based on their personal experiences. Looking at the comments as a whole, most seemed to agree that the overall effectiveness of these efforts depended largely on the leadership within the department and the culture of the organisation.
Being Part of the Team
Diversity and inclusion in the workforce have long been recognised as critical aspects of professional success, increasing our creativity and problem-solving, enhancing our learning experiences, shaping new attitudes, increasing flexibility, and improving workforce quality. This must be channelled through every member of the team—celebrating our differences and seeing the value that every individual brings to the table is a shared responsibility as much as it is an individual point of view. However, it’s just as important that we see our similarities and share a common respect for one another.
When it comes to being a member of the LP team, our survey respondents overwhelmingly felt they belonged as part of the LP team, with 96 per cent indicating that they agree. And they left no doubt they feel as capable of performing their job responsibilities as their male counterparts, with 100 per cent in agreement on the issue.
Nine out of ten respondents felt they have the respect and support of their bosses regarding their career aspirations. When asked if it mattered whether their boss was a man or a woman on this subject, 80 per cent indicated that it didn’t matter. Eighty-one per cent of women indicated that their boss was male, while 19 per cent reported to a female.
Do women feel they are often asked to perform assignments that are more stereotypical for women such as the note taker or activity coordinator? Responses to this question were very mixed, divided between those who disagreed (63%) and those who agreed (37%). By the same respect, when asked if women often volunteer to perform assignments that are more stereotypical for women, there was a similar division between those who agreed (55%) and those who disagreed (45%).
When asked if there were situations where they felt more at risk as a woman, the respondents also had a very mixed response, divided almost equally between those who agreed (49%) and those who disagreed (51%). The comments provided were also somewhat diverse based on personal experiences, with many women indicating that pregnancy was a primary reason they felt more at risk. Others were more inclined to perceive a risk of losing their job rather than a risk of personal safety.
These women overwhelmingly indicated their belief in the opportunity for a productive and long-term career in LP if they choose to have one, with 95 per cent of respondents agreeing that career options in the profession will remain available and attainable. Eight-six per cent felt they would continue to hold positions in LP five years from now, while many who disagreed did so based on retirement.
Ninety-six per cent stated that they have established a personal plan for their professional growth and development. They indicated strong belief that it’s important to develop their own skills and abilities as part of career growth, rating the importance as a nine on a scale of one to ten. As one might expect, there were some strong responses regarding the need to take personal responsibility for one’s own growth and development.
The vast majority (94%) stated that they seek out opportunities for continuing education to support growth and investment in their careers. Industry certifications were offered as the most frequent option for continuing education, followed by formal college education, online courses, company courses, industry conferences, and more informal means such as reading books and staying current through industry newsletters. The most frequently identified certifications that participants have obtained or were pursuing included (in this order) the LPCertified (LPC), Certified Forensic Interviewer (CFI), Wicklander-Zulawski Interview and Interrogation (WZ), LPQualified (LPQ), and Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE).
Mentors and Sponsors
Effective leaders must possess integrity and humility, recognising the importance of having others who can help them grow and develop. Our willingness to take advice and direction greatly impacts our ability to expand our talents and make a difference. By the same respect, a leader must be willing to help others to act, assuming the responsibility to nurture others in a way that will help them grow. We must seek out and accept mentors while also undertaking the guidance and responsibility of mentorship, assuming both roles with equal passion, enthusiasm, and accountability.
Approximately 78 per cent of participants indicated they have an individual who has served as a mentor during their careers, with 13 per cent stating that their primary mentor is a woman, 30 per cent a man, and 35 per cent revealing they have had both male and female mentors. Highlighting a clear area of opportunity, approximately one in five indicated they do not feel they’ve had mentors who played significant roles in their careers.
A sponsor is someone who can both advise you on your career and help to advance it. They promote, protect, prepare, and push you. Similarly, more than half of the women surveyed indicated they do not feel they’ve had sponsors who have played significant roles in their careers.
There was a time not long ago when the boundaries between work life and home life were fairly clear. But the world has changed, and unfortunately for many of us, the lines that once defined those boundaries have blurred. As a result, finding common ground and a viable work-life balance has become more and more challenging. All of us must learn to manage our work-life balance better and more efficiently, finding harmony between our personal and professional responsibilities.
Approximately 78 per cent of participants responded that they are currently satisfied with their work-life balance at some level. Most of the comments focused on the demanding schedule, rigorous hours, and regular travel hours that they felt can lead to stress on occasion.
On a positive note, an overwhelming majority (96%) felt that their families are supportive of their careers.
A large majority of respondents (89%) said they believe the industry has become more inclusive for women since they’ve joined the profession. While many felt the industry has made great strides, others believed there is still somewhat of a “glass ceiling,” especially at the upper levels of management.
Approximately 72 per cent of respondents felt gender biases remain in the LP industry today. Many of the comments throughout the survey referenced an ongoing “good old boys” network that they believed still exists. On a scale of one (poor) to ten (excellent), respondents gave the industry an average score of approximately a seven in its treatment of women within the industry.
Respondents perceived the ability to influence change across the industry, overcoming misconceptions and stereotypes, inspiring others, and injecting a different approach and perspective as important aspects that women offer to the industry. Looking at some of the greatest hurdles, the most common responses included work-life balance, self-confidence and self-advocacy, and the ongoing need for mentors and strong female leadership. Additional remarks included salary issues, sexism, overcoming stereotypes, and overall respect as a general theme.
Responses were mixed as to whether being a woman provided any particular advantage or disadvantage as an LP professional. Many indicated they didn’t feel that women face hurdles any different than those that men face, with some further stressing the need to embrace our differences and have greater self-confidence. “We stand in our own way” was a repetitive theme.
When looking at the perceptions and stereotypes that the women of LP feel they’ve had to overcome, many commented on the difficulties of leadership in a male-dominated profession, salary and promotional disparities, and stereotypes of women being “too soft,” “too emotional,” or “too sensitive.” Additional remarks included issues with appearance, sexual harassment, and other inappropriate comments and behaviour.
There were also those who felt that perceptions and stereotypes were minimal, claiming they insisted upon being evaluated by performance rather than other factors, praising the women who came before them for paving the way for performance-based standards.
Finding Common Ground
When asked to describe how the LP industry benefits from being more gender diverse, the respondents overwhelmingly referred to the importance of garnering different perspectives and the value this brings to every aspect of the business. Many focused on balance, quality, creativity, flexibility, and morale, while others discussed diversity of thought, the importance of life experiences, creating a stronger and more sustainable industry, and the power of big-picture solutions.
Many felt the industry has made significant strides in creating a more inclusive environment for women and is currently on the right track. But there remains a need for both men and women to change our attitudes and perspectives on how we approach women in the industry, which should be a primary imperative to accomplishing real change.
When asked to describe the greatest misconception that men have, respondents persistently commented that they do not want to be perceived as “weak” or incapable of performing everyday responsibilities that might be deemed difficult due to the potential for physical altercations and similar situations that occasionally occur in the retail LP setting. Common responses also focused on dedication, respect, resiliency, professionalism, and individuality. Others emphasised concentrating on the value of diverse solutions and shared skills, ideas, and other similarities rather than differences.
To ensure that women are provided equal opportunities, mentorship and sponsorship programmes were among the most common responses. Others suggested training and education, enhanced policies, and hiring and recruiting practices that would attract more women to the profession.
While some stressed the need for companies to take additional action, many emphasised the need for women to look inside themselves to influence real change. Continuing self-improvement and speaking up to promote their strengths and abilities were frequent responses.
While the women who responded envisioned many different ways the role of women in the workforce may change over the next five years, most believed that there would be positive change. Most felt that LP will remain a good career path for women, underscoring the evolving nature of the industry, the prospects for continuing growth and development, learning, and problem-solving to meet the evolving changes and challenges of the retail business, and bringing new and diverse perspectives to the industry as a whole. Many further added that they felt these opportunities were gender-neutral and applied to all LP professionals equally.
The most prominent message respondents want other women to know and understand is the need to focus attention on building a successful and productive career based on hard work and exceptional performance rather than allowing distractions and narrow-minded perceptions—whether someone else’s perceptions or one’s own—to stand in the way.
Generally speaking, there was recognition of the need to devote energy to growth and self-development, self-responsibility, self-promotion, and self-confidence. They said integrity is paramount and a successful career is built primarily upon drive, passion, and results.
When asked to offer additional advice to young women just starting out in the LP profession, the most prominent message was the importance of seeking out strong mentors, both male and female, who can offer guidance and counselling as they progress as LP professionals.
Almost all of the women surveyed described LP as an exciting and rewarding career, sharing messages of support and the opportunity to make a difference.
Final Thoughts from the Survey
When asked for final comments, concerns, or suggestions, the respondents discussed the strides they feel have been made in LP regarding gender equality, as well as the ongoing need to ensure that men and women are treated as equal partners in the workplace.
The women emphasised that while most individuals and organisations actively and persistently support gender diversity and equality in the workplace, some still fall short of expectations.
By the same respect, most of our respondents felt that women are equally responsible to earn merit through performance rather than gender or any other non-performance metric. They said time is up for excuses, and we all must work hard, be heard, focus on our own growth and development, remain professional and respectful, and strive to be the best if we want to get ahead professionally.