EXCLUSIVE – Satia Rai: A force of nature – profile

June 15, 2023

Satia Rai, a leading industry figure who is now head of diversity at Securitas UK, tells her life and times to Security Journal UK

There are probably few people in the industry as instantly recognisable, or as well-regarded, as Satia Rai. Often dressed from head to toe in black, sporting vivid lippy and a smile bigger than a palace, Rai could be the living embodiment of the phrase ‘force of nature’.

As she bowls along the trade show aisles up and down the land, everyone seems to know her and she them. Jovial and approachable, Rai makes time for all – everyone a contact, perhaps a friend.

For a gay woman who only came out a few years ago, in her mid-40s, there is, of course, a lot more to her than immediately meets the eye.

Her recent appointment as the Head of Diversity, Inclusion & Belonging at Securitas UK, is a far cry from the young woman who was a retail security officer at a Focus DIY store after leaving secondary school (Biddenden Upper School) after finishing her GCSEs.

Even then, there was a focus to the career choice she made, having watched someone at close quarters getting into trouble with the law. She even eschewed a police career (she was already special constable) with the Northamptonshire constabulary to concentrate on security.


“I knew that I wanted to go into something on the protective side of things. Northamptonshire Police had accepted me but I decided not to do it because I was offered another, better paid job in security so I did that instead,“ says Rai, speaking at The Security Event in Birmingham in late April.

For 25 years, she kept her sexuality to herself – putting up with infantile “banter” and coarse language of male colleagues at the mention of homosexuality. Rather than make her angry, it led to self-doubt.

“I grew up as a gay woman and I am proud of that,” she says, growing serious for a moment. “It took 25 years working in the security industry before I came out. I just didn’t feel safe or comfortable enough, if I’m honest.

“I would hear colleagues saying things and having ‘banter’ at work, making derogatory remarks about gay people. So, I’d wonder if they would lose respect for me if I told them I am gay. This is because I did have such brilliant working relationships with my friends and colleagues at work.

“Once I had come out, though, I felt a great sense of liberation and freedom.”

Rai, who turns 50 this month, was born in Bedford to Indian parents who came to England in the mid-1960s from the Punjab. Although they spoke not a word of English when they arrived, Dad worked for a brick-makers and mum was a cleaner in a factory.

The cobble-close Rais (there are five children) didn’t have much and putting kids through university was not considered possible for a large family with limited means.

“I left school after my GCSEs and I didn’t get the chance to go to university because of my socio-economic background. It was just the way it was at the time.”

After her stint in retail security, she became a store detective and a loss prevention staffer at Boots.

Thereafter, she was on the rise, each new position a step up from the last. Names like Dunelm, Kingdom Security, TCFM and Woodwill roll off her lips.

Rai was clearly ready for the next challenge as she moved into trade bodies, eventually becoming Chief Executive Officer of the International Professional Security Association (IPSA) last November.

So how did the Securitas UK job come about?

Rai explains: “Securitas was part of the Pride celebrations last year and prior to that, in June, they provided security at no cost at all for a high-profile London Pride vigil.

“London Pride approached me and asked for some help because (London Mayor) Sadiq Khan would be speaking at it.

“After that, the communication sort of carried on and they were invited to be part of International Women’s Day which I was heavily involved in. So, there was a natural synergy there and that’s how it came about.”

Rai started in March, stating: “It’s incredible to be part of the Securitas family, progression and transition into my role felt so right. I have landed my dream role, working for the leading security service provider globally.

“This next chapter of my journey will enable me to continue with my lifelong ambition of giving back and serving the security community that I am so passionate about and proud I belong to.

“At Securitas UK, we believe everyone belongs. To do that well, we need a workforce that’s more representative of the communities we serve.”

Inclusion and feeling valued

Rai says that in order to be engaged with your duties, inclusion and feeling valued are necessities.

Sarah Hayes, Securitas’s Human Resources Director said the company had spent several years honing a strategy where the goal is to create a sense of belonging in the workplace.

She explains: “Over the last three years we have been building on our diversity and inclusion strategy with the ultimate goal to create a place where we all truly belong, where we can remove our masks and be our authentic selves.

“This goes beyond the protected characteristics and having a policy.”

There are four main themes to the Securitas strategy:

1. The door is open, how people join us and develop their careers with Securitas;

2. Inclusive leadership, how the firm leads people in a way that makes them feel included and valued

3. Fair pay, ensuring fair and transparent pay;

4. Recognition, recognising contributions over and above in a fair and transparent way.

Hayes adds: “Satia’s appointment is very exciting for me personally, the skills, experience and passion that she brings will transcend us to another level and take us ever closer eutopia, where everyone in our business that values and celebrates all of our differences. Somewhere to belong.

 “Satia will play a critical role in defining and delivering our strategy, promoting a diverse and inclusive workplace, ultimately helping Securitas attract and retain the top talent from all backgrounds. The future of Securitas UK is exciting.”

Rai says inclusiveness should be the norm and it is one that should be nurtured.

She adds: “At Securitas UK, we strive to build and nurture a culture where inclusiveness is the norm.

“Where there is a deep sense of pride, passion and belonging that transcends any role, business unit, language or country and is unified in our shared commitment to excellence, innovation and social responsibility.

“We know through experience that different ideas, perspectives and backgrounds create a stronger and more innovative workplace environment that delivers better results.

“At Securitas, we’re committed to creating an inclusive and diverse workplace, where employees feel empowered to share their experiences and ideas, we’ve encouraged the creation of a variety of employee network groups, including Women at Securitas UK, assimilation for our black, Asian and ethnic group employees, the Can Do network for our disabled and neurodiverse employees, Pride at Securitas for our LGBT+ employees and more.”

One industry observer I spoke to sees Rai as a “champion of champions”.

He added: “She has this way of making things happen, not just for herself but the people she works for and represents. She just has this way about her.

“There is no doubting that it all comes from a good place. Satia is one of the world’s doers and she likes to get things done. Everybody likes her – she’s virtually impossible to dislike.”

She recently convened a major International Women’s Day at the Tate Modern in London, to wide acclaim.

“That was very important to me personally but for many millions of women across the world. I was happily surprised how it was embraced by the whole of society, not just women,” she reflects.

At the nightly TSE drinks reception back in April, Rai, usually trailing colleagues and chums in her wake, moves effortlessly from group to group, never travelling more than a few yards before she stops to chat to someone she knows.

And it is unrelenting for three days as she tends the stand while fitting in interviews, public speaking and intensive networking into the bargain.

Securitas know what they have got: a force of nature.

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