Anju Sahni, the executive director at Securex Agencies, says a quarter of a century ago, the thought that a woman could be the boss in a security firm would have been met with incredulity or downright derision. However, the general stigma has dissipated somewhat over the last decade.
“It’s amazing when someone quotes how people in the office look up to me as a motherly figure,” she talks of her 28 years experience in the security industry.
However, she still finds that finding a balance for life at work and at home requires specific attention.
“One thing I’m sure most women would agree with me is that we have to juggle many balls without dropping any. I am first a mother, a wife, a sister and a daughter before I am an executive director and a mentor,” she says.
“I am also getting more and more involved in philanthropy so that I can touch as many lives as I can. It was difficult drawing a balance between work, family and social commitments. Ultimately, we wear many hats but we wear our hats (and our scars) with pride,” she adds.
Ms Sahni heads the security firm that has over 6,500 staff spread across seven branches in two countries.
“I started out helping as a personal assistant at Securex in 1991. I then moved on to work in different departments digitising all processes from finance to customer relationship management,” she says.
What lured her to the security industry was an interest in ensuring there was no lapse in security since “the implications of any oversight in security can be phenomenal to both life and property.” Ms Sahni says she had no hesitations before taking up her current role.
“I stayed on and braved the odds because I knew that I could make a difference, no matter how long it took. I never take “No’ for an answer and I have always been ready to do whatever it takes to make an impact,” she says.
Man in a room
She is glad that women today are having an easier time joining the industry.
“The stigma that once came with the territory and the job is a thing of the past. However, we had to do a lot to get here. Once upon a time, I digitised the payroll system at our firm and, as is the case with any seismic shift in any role, it wasn’t exactly smooth. At one point, I had male colleagues openly shouting at me to “go back to the kitchen and make tea.” We almost had a riot!” she says.
“I also faced difficulties dealing with some clients back then. For example, when my husband was on his travels, they would call in and on hearing a woman’s voice, would simply respond with, “OK, when will he be back? No, you can’t help me, I’ll wait for him.” At other times, I would sit in a meeting and the other party would automatically direct everything to the man in the room, even if I was more informed or senior,” she adds.
For Judith Ochola, also in the security industry, she heads the sales and marketing at SGA Security, overseeing several clients’ security projects on behalf of the company.
“Historically, security risk management has been perceived to be a male-dominated sector where women are required to do only ‘soft jobs’.
“At first clients are normally not too sure about a woman being able to address their concerns. I find myself going an extra mile to build trust and confidence, but this is positive as it makes me stronger and wiser,” she says.