Busting into secure male territory
Gina Field with some of her security staff. Photo: Rob Homer
SLOSHING around in the mud protecting movie star Leonardo DiCaprio's film shoot may not be everybody's idea of Hollywood glamour.
But Gina Field has never been one to care for the cliches. ''I like to get there amongst it, I like to get my hands dirty,'' says the 44-year-old owner of Nepean Regional Security, which protected the set of Baz Luhrmann's The Great Gatsby during its rainy outdoor filming in the Blue Mountains this year.
While conditions were pretty horrible, Field says: ''I've always been a girl that has done something different. I'm not a real girly girl.''
Which is probably a good prerequisite when you're a woman running your own business in the male-dominated security industry. Field, a veteran with more than 24 years' experience, started her agency in 1998 from her Penrith home, doing her first patrol rounds in a clapped-out Holden Camira. The company has since grown into a $3-million-a-year business with 40 staff and 13 vehicles in Sydney's western suburbs.
The movies have become welcome jobs, but her main business is still building protection, crowd control and other bread-and-butter security services.
Field recalls how she worked in a hardware store aged 19 and quizzed a security guard on how she could get into the industry. He told her not to bother because women wouldn't be employed. ''Being the personality I am, when I was listening to that I thought 'now I want to be a security guard because I want to show I can do it','' she says.
She attended a training course and secured her first job, signing people in and out of an insurance building in Sydney. She was moved to corporate sites around the city, ''but it just wasn't my scene … I've always been a bit of a daredevil and I wanted to get out there.''
Determined to become a mobile patrol officer, she snuck into her employer's patrols on her nights off to learn the rounds, and got a chance to prove herself during a staff shortage. It was a poorly regulated industry in the '90s, and before she had firearms training, an employer handed her an old .44 Magnum without bullets to carry on her hip.
After Field was made redundant in late 1997, a client encouraged her to start her own company. It was a slow grind until 2007, when she won a large government tender to secure three former Olympic sites in Sydney's west.
Suddenly ''my turnover had gone from something like $90,000 to $800,000,'' says Field, who was a finalist in this year's Telstra NSW Business Women's Awards.
Field admits there have been times when she felt vulnerable - arriving at crime scenes when the thugs were still there, or going into dark factories on patrol runs. The flipside was that clients tended to trust her a little more than some of her ''macho industry peers''.