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Poll call: Evaluating barriers and support for women in law enforcement

Recent poll results offer a glimpse into the current landscape and challenges associated with recruiting and retaining female police officers

Female police officer at night, talking on radio

There’s no excuse for police departments to not have a welcoming and inclusive atmosphere.

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Last month, we conducted a series of polls on Police1 to gain insights into efforts aimed at fostering gender diversity and inclusion within law enforcement.

The polls asked respondents about the most effective strategies for recruiting more women into law enforcement careers, the biggest barriers for women entering law enforcement and the level of support provided to women returning to work after maternity leave.

As we continue to highlight key issues facing female officers, including workplace diversity, overcoming gender biases and navigating the demands of the job in a traditionally male-dominated field, these poll results are more important than ever.

Here’s how each poll breaks down:

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What the results mean:

  • There continues to be an emphasis on work-life balance: A total of 64% of respondents agreed that the most effective strategy for recruiting more women means that there must be initiatives in place that accommodate life outside of work. This could look like offering childcare support or flexible scheduling.
  • The need to develop mentorship programs remains a top suggestion: Women face unique challenges throughout their law enforcement careers, but that doesn’t mean they need to figure it all out on their own. Mentorship programs, specifically ones designed to pair female officers together, can provide the necessary guidance, support and encouragement they need to continue growing and advancing throughout their career.
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What the results mean:

  • The view of law enforcement as a male-dominated field remains a significant barrier: In March, police departments flooded social media with photos and videos of female officers within their ranks in honor of Women’s History Month. They shared female officers’ success stories, their accomplishments and the historical significance of past and present female officers. Instead of taking one month out of the year to make this a priority, what if your department actively publicized the success and contributions of female officers? This would not only contribute to ensuring equality and inclusivity, but would attract young women considering a career in law enforcement.
  • Workplace culture and environment continue to be the highest barrier: It’s 2024. There’s no excuse for police departments to not have a welcoming and inclusive atmosphere. The fact of the matter is: Policing will become a more attractive career choice for women when this issue is resolved. Otherwise, issues like harassment, discrimination and lack of advancement opportunities for women will continue.
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What the results mean:

  • There is a foundation in place for support, but more can be done: A majority of respondents indicated that there is support in place, which is great to see. A combined 58% said their department was either very supportive or somewhat supportive. This shows that departments recognize the importance of supporting female officers returning from maternity leave, but there’s still a consensus that more can be done regarding this issue.
  • Departments need to seek feedback from returning mothers: This is as simple as asking them what kind of support they need post-maternity leave. This could look like offering more flexible scheduling options, phrased return-to-work programs or better access to private areas for nursing mothers.

Putting it all together

The poll results offer a glimpse into the current landscape and challenges associated with recruiting and retaining women in law enforcement. Although a degree of support for women in the field exists, there’s substantial room for improvement. If your department has not yet concentrated on cultivating a workplace culture that values diversity and inclusivity, the time to start is now.

The “Women in Law Enforcement” topic focuses on key issues facing female police officers, including workplace diversity, overcoming gender biases, and navigating the physical and mental demands of the job in a traditionally male-dominated field.

Want to learn more? Watch the video below to find out how the 30x30 Initiative aims to increase the representation of women in police recruit classes to 30 percent by 2030:

Sarah Calams, who previously served as associate editor of FireRescue1.com and EMS1.com, is the senior editor of Police1.com and Corrections1.com. In addition to her regular editing duties, Sarah delves deep into the people and issues that make up the public safety industry to bring insights and lessons learned to first responders everywhere.

Sarah graduated with a bachelor’s degree in news/editorial journalism at the University of North Texas in Denton, Texas. Have a story idea you’d like to discuss? Send Sarah an email or reach out on LinkedIn.
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