The gender gap in BCM and Resilience (72% men, 28% women)

21 October 2016

View Charley Newnham's profile on LinkedIn

A couple of weeks ago I asked my connections on LinkedIn why they thought there were more men working in the Operational Resilience and, specifically, the Business Continuity Management space. The first response didn’t provide input but questioned the statement itself. They asked; how could that possibly be true?

“Is that really the case or is it a case of women are the doers and the men like to stand up and talk about it more giving the impression on imbalance?” asked Sharon Buckland, an IT service continuity manager from Melbourne, Australia. It’s a great question because sometimes things are not as they seem and we should keep sense checking our assumptions, but in this case it wasn’t an assumption.

This summer a small group of us from BCI and PwC put out a survey about the future of BCM and, to a lesser extent, Resilience more generally. We didn’t actually mean to ask a gender question, it was just one of those questions you ask as people begin to fill in a survey to set some context: age, gender, geographical location, and so on.

We got over 740 responses to the survey. 72% were from men and 28% from women. Was this just a bias from the BCI mailing list, people in relevant groups on LinkedIn, contacts of those involved in the survey and their colleagues - all ways in which we advertised the survey?

It seems not.

Deborah checked the BCI membership ratio, and it’s about the same. Then I looked at the team I work in at PwC (encompassing Enterprise Resilience, BCM, Crisis Management Security and IT Resilience) and 31% of us are women. I then went onto LinkedIn and searched for people with the word ‘Resilience’ in their job title: in the first 3 pages of the search only 3 women came up.

So it does seem that the statistic stands up, certainly when there is a BCM bias (as there is in this case), and there are other statistics out there for areas most of us consider part of the Operational Resilience arsenal. And some are even more dramatic.

  • Cyber security – 10% of Global Information Security professionals are women, according to the ISC’s 2016 study[i].
  • Security – 9% of license holders are women according to The UK’s Security Industry Authority in July 2016.
  • Risk – 38% of the Risk and Insurance Management Society[ii] membership was women.

So why is this? I asked my contacts on LinkedIn and here are some of their (unscientific but) valuable opinions:

  • Charlotte Stacey told me to read the Women In Cyber Security Study and wondered if those with ex-military backgrounds might be more inclined to seek a career in Operational Resilience, which may influence the gender population.
  • Liz Hicks asked if it was maybe “something to do with the adrenalin rush when an incident is kicking off” (and women with a Resilience role are slightly more likely to be on an Incident Management team than men, but that’s a whole other statistic!).
  • Ken Simpson (from New Zealand) wondered if the imbalance shifted across the generations (and yes, it does, there are more men in senior roles but again, a whole other statistic!).
  • Howard Kenny (from Australia) contributed that in his personal experience there were far more women practitioners than men but “they tend not to be as needy” so don’t form “old boys clubs” and thus may be a little less visible.

Another told me this in a private message: he wondered if the issue centred around a perception (in his case, from his mother-in-law) that women needed to ‘be home’ when a man perhaps did not. He wondered if the usually unpredictable hours of BCM, incidents & crises could be a factor. As a woman myself, I admit I don’t want that to be a reason because I don’t like it… but is it?

Before we get too fired up about it, it’s important to understand the underlying context. The UK’s Office of National Statistics labour market bulletin from May 2016[iii] shows that the UK workforce is made up of 56% men and 44% women, so the figures are going to be skewed because of the underlying realities – there are slightly more men than women in the workforce. 

With all this on my mind I rang Karla Jobling, Director at BeecherMadden, a recruiting firm specifically for resilience and governance related positions, to ask what she actually sees in the job market today. She said,

I’m not at all surprised by those statistics. About 18% of the people on our database are women though I think it’s slightly higher for BCM positions at around 20%.”  

We talked about how that related to job offers and pay and she told me,

For salaries up to around £45,000 there tend to be quite a few female candidates, and in my experience women tend to get more job offers per job interview than men - but we very rarely see women placed in the very senior roles.”  

There is one anomaly in all this though: Karla tells me that women placed in roles in Cyber Security can often negotiate around 30% more than their male counterparts and this could be because the female candidates interviewing tend to come with more wide-ranging business experience to offer to the role than the men, who are more likely to come through a more traditional cyber-only route.

Of course the irony of this article is that the survey itself – which I stress does not focus on gender, was the brainchild of Deborah Higgins and myself, and the numbers were mostly crunched by Rebecca Robinson and myself so while we might be the minority, we certainly have a voice!

And thus, I pose these question to you. If the statistic 70/30 men to women is correct, is this a bad thing? Is it a good thing? Does it matter? Does it matter to you?

Want more statistics? We’ll be providing a lot more statistics from our summer survey at the BCI World conference 2016, look out for Charley Newnham, Deborah Higgins and Rebecca Robinson on the agenda and at the event to find out more. You can also drop me an email and I will send you a copy of the concise report after the event.






A staggering imbalance. I agreed with Sharon in your blog in that I bought us males were more vocal but the stats don't lie!

Well sometimes stats lie, which is why Deborah Higgins and I went on the hunt to see if they stood up in the wider context (as opposed to being an anomoly) - and which is why Sharon asked exactly the same question I would have asked if I wasn't sitting on a statistic that puzzled me. The question is, does it matter???!

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated and will not appear until the author has approved them.