For example, if a young professional has accomplished a noteworthy achievement, then he/she should be considered based on the specific circumstances which relate to his/her accomplishment. Similarly, ensuring that the selection pool reflects diverse security professionals will eliminate the need to have separate awards, or at least gender specific awards. My thinking favors a more inclusive approach where a security professional is evaluated based on his/her accomplishments, unique achievements, personal challenges which were overcome, and value proposition, rather than focusing on a class differentiator such as gender. That being said, I do believe that there is value in affinity organizations which provide an opportunity for similarly situated professionals to network and offer support to one another.
The ultimate goal in recognizing talent is to advance the profession and the professional.
Voice of Security: While the trend is changing, the security industry has long been male-dominated, especially in positions of leadership. Have you run into challenges of this nature in your career and, if so, what has that involved and how have you handled it?
Michele Freadman: Over the course of my entire career, I have held non-traditional occupations from police officer, detective, loss prevention supervisor for one of the largest, international package delivery companies, and a variety of management and executive positions in the security field. Consequently, I understand the premise and the reality that male-dominated industries provide particular challenges for women’s advancement, but I also strongly believe that with these challenges come real opportunities. These challenges and opportunities have provided me with a platform for personal growth and leadership which I may not have been exposed to working in a traditional industry. My grandfather who was one of my mentors and most important influences in my life once told me, “no pain, no gain.” Although he was referring to finances (fiscal responsibility and constraint), his wisdom is applicable to personal and professional growth and maturity.
Since entering the law enforcement field with a quest for adventure, few preconceived notions, and a fair amount of naïveté, I have become significantly more self-reliant and resilient. There have been days when failure was an option, and then other days where fear of failure motivated me to strive and excel. In retrospect, there is a lot of truth to the theory of “survival of the fittest” even though Darwin clearly was not thinking about women in law enforcement!
Facing difficult challenges and adversity—be it historically ingrained attitudes towards women, competition in the workplace, marginalization, or just being different in your thinking and genre—I have learned to anticipate and navigate adversity, and adapt my thinking and approach.
Ultimately, there is always more than one option, more than one path, and more than one choice.
Early in my career, I was one of two women in my police academy and one of only a handful of women in both of the policing jobs. The challenges that I encountered were frequent. Adversity became my best friend and teacher. When I graduated first in my class for firearms and academics, the competition and adversity escalated. This was a difficult experience because I was not exposed to this behavior before at any point in my life. Realizing that there are people who want you to fail, and will take steps to make failure a reality, was a very difficult lesson to learn. That lesson was painful, but it prepared me well for my future.
Even more vital in those early years, I learned the importance of having advocacy and support from other professionals in the field who believe in you and want you to succeed. During my college co-ops, I worked at Boston Police Department (BPD) and it was there that I developed relationships with law enforcement professionals who became my mentors. During my years as in policing, I developed close relationships with the DA’s, who some of whom I still maintain relationships with today. In all of my law enforcement and security positions, I was fortunate to have been supported by experienced professionals who taught me key skills, helped to learn from my mistakes, and encouraged me. And I am grateful for these relationships.
Having worked in male dominated/centric industries throughout my entire career, my most important and influential mentors have been men who have believed in me and my success. These individuals provide me with the necessary encouragement and advocacy to flourish. In contrast, I have faced significant adversaries who have been men who did not want me to be successful and who employed strategies to limit or impede my success. The support that I received from my mentors was the force that kept me going when I wanted to quit. They would say, “You are not quitting, it is not an option.” I am forever grateful to have received the support from other professionals and mentors throughout my entire career that have believed in me and my success – even more than I did.
I learned early on that you have to be strong, resilient, perseverant, and smart to survive. Mental strength/mental attitude cannot be overestimated. Just ask the Celtics (I am a Celtic’s fan). And Phil Jackson, former coach of the LA Lakers had it right when he said, you “need the will to win. You win from within.”