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A woman’s view from the frontline: An interview with Laura McSherry

I recently had the pleasure of meeting with Laura McSherry Security & Community Safety Manager at the University of Northampton, unfortunately we were only able to meet via our computer screens, as with most communications at this time. Laura has a great deal of experience to draw from, she has a distinguished career in security management in and out of the higher education sector. Over our virtual meeting Laura shared with me, her experiences of being a woman in the security sector, how she achieved her goals and how in her experience transferable skills can be more important than brute force in campus security.

Talking with Laura it is clear her experiences support the need for ProtectED in higher education, reinforcing our findings that security is no longer just about locking doors, security teams have a wider role to play in supporting the safety and wellbeing of their students and staff — not only while they are on campus, but throughout their student experience.

How did you start your career journey?

My career began at 19 when I joined the Royal Air Force (RAF) as a Police Officer. Being a police officer was a dream of mine from an early age, so was the appeal of military life and the vast opportunities it would offer. With both parents serving in the military, I grew up listening to their stories, which inspired me to chase me dream.

As a junior RAF Police Officer my main role was providing security of assets, people and information and dealing with any offences involving serving personnel. At a young age this was a demanding role which required the highest levels of personal integrity; combined with the ability to assess and act on complex information as a security and policing specialist.

As my career developed, I led a team of RAF Police and Security personnel, including soldiers of the Military Provost Guard Service. It gave me the opportunity to engage in specialist areas.

What was your driving force to join the Security Industry?

After my accident that meant I could no longer serve as an RAF Police Officer, moving into Security Management was a natural progression for me. After serving nearly nine years in the Royal Air Force as a Police Officer specialising in counterintelligence. I developed skills and gained experience similar to those of a senior civilian Police Officer or Corporate Security Risk Manager.

The transferable skills I gained in my nine years with the RAF equipped me , with professional qualifications that are recognised by the Home Office, Security Industry, civilian agencies and employers. Many RAF Police Officers who have left the Royal Air Force have found jobs in the fields of emergency planning, security risk management and management consultancy. As well as counterintelligence, cyber security and information assurance.

Do you feel your Journey has been harder being a woman, in such a male dominated field?

Women only make up 10.8% of the UK’s Armed Forces overall. The Royal Air Force is a little higher with 14.7%. If someone wants to join the armed forces in a combat role, they can be a soldier, a sailor or an airman. The latter may deter some female would-be recruits from joining the RAF, simply because the title implies it is a man’s game.

I personally did not feel that my journey was any harder than normal, however I do feel security is a profession predominantly associated with men.