Traditionally, the close protection industry has been a male-dominated industry. But in recent years the landscape has changed dramatically, with an ever-increasing demand for female bodyguards. Many celebrities, CEOs, Royal family members and Government officials are now opting to hire female bodyguards instead of males to protect them and their families. But this begs the question, can female bodyguards provide the same level of protection as their male counterparts? We explore the arguments for both backed up by academic, social and scientific studies.
Unlike the typical stereotype of a bodyguard you see depicted in the movies, you don’t have to be a big burly man to have the necessary physical presence to be a good, effective bodyguard. In fact, there are benefits to having a more normal stature. Most clients want their bodyguards to be able to blend in and not draw undue attention to themselves. This is a big advantage for female bodyguards and one of the reasons why they can be preferential. But there are obvious biological differences between males and females. According to a study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology exploring the physical differences between the genders, men have an average of 26 lbs. (12 kilograms) more skeletal muscle mass than women. On average, women also exhibited about 40% less upper-body strength and 33% less lower-body strength than men. A 2006 study published in the same journal, also found that men had significantly stronger grips than females. The difference was so stark that 90% of the women in the study scored lower than 95% of their male counterparts. There are also notable differences in speed when comparing the genders. For example, Florence Griffith Joyner won the title as the fastest woman in the world in the 100-metre sprint, coming in at just 10.49 seconds. However, her record-breaking time wouldn’t have even allowed her to qualify for the men’s 2016 Olympic competition, which required 10.16 seconds or less. These physical differences naturally put women at a disadvantage in a physical confrontation or altercation that requires superior strength and speed to protect and extract their principal to safety.
According to studies, female and male brains do not vary massively but there are some cognitive differences worth noting. The most prominent of all the differences is that men have a superior level of spatial awareness. While this may be a relatively controversial topic, researchers in physiological and social science fields have conducted numerous studies that have corroborated this finding. So, what exactly is spatial awareness? It can be defined as the capacity to understand, reason and remember the spatial relations among objects or space. It is vital for effective problem-solving in everyday situations, such as navigating an unfamiliar environment and reacting quickly to an event or incident. Bodyguards are frequently travelling to new cities and countries so need to familiarise themselves with the area of operations quickly by conducting research, recces and local liaison. They are also expected to be able to identify threats and risks before they develop into danger and mitigate them using their training, experience and physical prowess. With this in mind, having a high level of spatial awareness is extremely important for bodyguards, to enable them to provide utmost physical protection to their principal.
While differences certainly exist between the genders, there are many positive reasons to hire a female bodyguard. One driving reason is that often clients prefer someone who has a discreet presence that can blend into the background. Due to the widespread stereotype of what a bodyguard ‘looks like’, females are easily mistaken for a family member, a friend, Nanny or Personal Assistant. This adds an additional layer of security as it leaves potential attackers or aggressors totally unaware and unprepared for any counteraction they may receive.
Female bodyguards are increasingly popular among female clients as they are more of a natural fit in a family environment and can seem less intimidating to young children. Biologically, females also have higher levels of empathy and emotional intelligence, which means they may understand the intricacies of their principal’s needs in ways a male cannot. This was proven by the world’s largest study on the topic conducted by Cambridge University, which found that women have higher levels of empathy, while men have more advanced analytical capabilities. The study concluded that females on average have an increased ability to recognise what another person is thinking or feeling and to respond to their state of mind with an appropriate emotion. A client who may hire a bodyguard due to a highly threatening situation may benefit from the additional compassion, nurturing and emotional support that a female bodyguard can offer.
Females are also often sought because they have superior soft skills and social skills when compared with males. These include more advanced interpersonal skills, organisational ability and multi-tasking levels. Studies have explored this at length, in particular looking at the gender differences mostly in a professional capacity. Korn Ferry Hay Group analysed 55,000 professionals across a broad spectrum of industries and found that women outperformed men in nearly all emotional and social competencies, which are key qualities for leadership. Furthermore, diplomacy is a large part of close protection and females are often better at conflict resolution and using effective communication to diffuse a situation. As the first female U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright recently said: “women are particularly good at diplomacy…it does require the human touch…women are much better at having peripheral vision and also multitasking and having the capability of telling it like it is.”
It is not possible to hire armed bodyguards in the UK, and in terms of physical ability, females are often underestimated. Although males certainly have physical advantages, a female’s covert presence puts them in a position to use ‘shock and awe’ tactics – speed and aggression to help catch an attacker off guard and overcome them to escape. This can certainly give them the edge and trump the size and strength of their male counterparts. Although, we must stress that the role of any bodyguard is not to stand toe-to-toe and fight, but to avoid conflict and extract safely from any potential attacks, altercations or high-risk situations.
Hiring a female bodyguard can also be preferable for cultural or religious reasons. It is common among clients from the Middle East to favour hiring a female bodyguard in the UK and Europe, as they can protect female family members in line with religious requirements. They can also go everywhere with their female client, accompanying them into the bathroom or into female sections of department stores without looking out of place and uncomfortable. This enables complete covert security coverage and doesn’t allow any temporary lapses in cover, or grant windows of opportunity for a planned or opportunist attack or robbery.
Despite the increasing demand for female bodyguards, the private security industry is still very male-dominated, especially in the close protection sector. According to the Home Office, female close protection operatives are still a minority and make up less than 5% of the current 14,285 SIA CP licence holders in the UK (May 2019). This scarcity means they can often (but not always!) command higher salaries and get paid significantly more than males, especially in the summer season when they are highly sought after. ‘Good’ female close protection operatives can earn up to double their male counterparts and they often swiftly secure full-time employment. Whereas an estimated >95% of males are self-employed/seeking work, it’s a simple equation of supply far exceeding demand, which in turn is driving down wages and standards. Read our article on ‘How to become a bodyguard’ for more information.
This really depends on the protectee’s individual requirements, preferences and circumstances. As discussed, both genders excel in different areas making either one an excellent choice for your personal security needs. A close protection team with a combination of both sexes will be highly effective in providing an all-round close protection service.
Whatever you decide, Westminster Security can provide you with both male or female bodyguards in London, throughout the UK, Europe and beyond. With all our close protection operatives having extensive backgrounds in the armed forces, police and government security services, they are considered as the best in the industry. Our close protection services are tailored to your individual needs which ensures the personal protection you receive fits in with your lifestyle requirements whilst mitigating the threats and risks posed to you and your family, allowing you to go about your daily life unhindered.
To hire a female bodyguard, contact us today and one of our expert security consultants will assist and advise you regarding the best security measures for you and your family.
Westminster Security provides professional close protection security services in London, the UK, and worldwide.