When you think of a bodyguard, whom do you picture? Probably a hulking guy in a dark suit protectively flanking the celebrity while cautiously scanning the crowd. By now, we’re all familiar with bodyguards and think we can pick them out in a crowd; but can we?
Top security and executive protection professionals say the fastest-growing demand they are seeing is for women, often because they play against that stereotype and are able to “blend” in better with the surroundings and have greater access.
“In general, women are much more tactful. Over the years, bodyguards have transitioned from the 400-pound bodyguard to female bodyguards providing the covert and ‘extra-eye’ type of security,” says Michael Saad, CEO of Michael Saad International, a Dubai-based personal security firm.
Elijah Shaw, CEO of Icon Services Corp., an executive protection, security and training firm in Saint Paul, Minn. agrees. “Women have the ability to blend in more to the environment … making them less intrusive to an executive who may feel stifled under the watchful eye of male protectors.”
More clients are requesting women to provide executive protection, Saad says. “Entertainers, corporate executives, heads of state in another country, the spectrum of our client base is a whole lot different than what it was just 10 years ago, and with that we’re seeing different needs.”
For men and women alike, there is no “typical” height and weight requirement, says Shaw, whose company provides services for high-profile clients such as singers Usher, 50 Cent and Mick Jagger. “With that said, being size proportionate as well as fit is important.”
Female bodyguards also may have a logistical edge.
“Consider the female CEO who has to go to the ladies’ room. Unless the threat is very high, male coverage of that protectee ends at the door, creating a potential security risk,” Shaw says. “In some countries, male interaction with female clients is so restricted because of religious or cultural norms that many of the effective executive protection protocols could only be successfully carried out by a female protective agent.”
While selecting a career as a bodyguard may seem a natural choice for a Navy SEAL or someone with a law enforcement background, those aren’t necessarily requirements; however, candidates with these backgrounds make up a majority of bodyguards and may have an edge. Criminal justice majors are also increasingly interested in the field.
“Weapons and martial arts backgrounds … equalize the playing field against an adversary who often has the advantage of planning and surprise,” says Shaw. “Both would be recommended, particularly for women, as it also equalizes them with their male counterparts. This means that women with a law enforcement or military background have an advantage in securing employment, but there are also many programs in the private sector that teach those same skills.”
While women have made strides in the career, just 10 percent of Icon’s attendees are women.
“Many think executive protection is all about shooting and being menacing, when the essence of it is problem solving and verbal judo, two traits that are gender neutral,” Shaw says.
Saad says potential bodyguards should also bring realistic expectations to the job; if your main motivation to becoming a bodyguard is replicating the movie, “The Bodyguard,” where the star falls in love with her bodyguard, you’re not the right candidate.
“Just to be next to somebody famous is not enough. If you come into this job and think you’re going to be doing something else, you’re not a good candidate,” Saad says. “It’s a lot of waiting around; it’s a lot of surveilling areas for potential threats.”
Reprinted with permission from Thompson Hospitality and Compass Group
© 2012 Thompson Hospitality and Compass Group