SIX in ten female officers in the senior ranks say their male colleagues are “not well informed” on gender issues with half of women officers not confident to report sexual discrimination, a survey has shown.
According to research carried out by the Superintendents’ Association of England and Wales, 73 per cent of respondents said their workplace was supportive of female officers and 80 per cent said there were visible female role models in policing.
But 43 per cent said they had been treated unfairly due to their gender.
A total 79 female superintendents and chief superintendents replied to a survey by the association, which will be used to inform future discussions about diversity.
And at 37 per cent, a significant number of female police officers said their gender had been a barrier to progression. Respondents said more needed to be done to provide support and coaching to female officers and that greater provisions for flexible working would help them progress.
Officers were asked why they had not tried to progress further up the ranks. Lack of self-confidence, the balancing of caring responsibilities and work, and a perceived ‘unconscious bias’ within some forces were given as reasons.
Some respondents said they had not tried to progress to chief officer rank because there was a perception that ACPO is “male dominated” or an “old boys club”. Others commented that a “long hours culture” discriminated against women as they were more likely to have caring responsibilities. And many complained that time spent away on a senior command course proved to be a barrier to career progression.
The latest police force workforce statistics for England and Wales, published in July, show that there are 126 female superintendents out of 763 (16.6 per cent) and 68 female chief superintendents out of 358 (19 per cent).
Females at constable rank – for instance – make up 30 per cent of the workforce.
The Superintendents’ Association said: “The association recognises the need and value in having a work force that is more representative of the communities we serve. Whilst there has been progress at junior levels, representation of women at the superintending level remains low.
“We hope [association] members find the results of this surgery informative and useful in conversations they may be having with their chief officer teams in relation to equality and diversity issues in their branch.
“The [association’s] Human Resources Business Area will use the results to inform discussions with the College of Policing, Ministers and others in aiming to achieve a better representation of senior women officers in the future.
“It is particularly important at this time of shrinking numbers in the superintending ranks, and the advent of direct entry, that we continue to work with chief officers, the College of Policing, ACPO and the Home Office to ensure blockers to progression are heard and acted upon.”