Dee Collins is the new President of the British Association for Women in Policing, having taken over from Cressida Dick. Here she outlines her plans for the organisation, what the main issues facing women in the service are today and what she gets up to in her spare time…
Why did you want to become the new President of the BAWP?
I have always wanted everyone to value our differences and individuality, and therefore I want to play my part in ensuring that female officers and staff have a voice within policing. More broadly, it is important, particularly now, with so much change that gender issues are recognised and progressed.
What will your priorities be for the organisation? How will you advance the Gender Agenda?
I am keen that BAWP continues to thrive and develop. We need to look carefully at the recommendations within Gender Agenda 3 and see how we can work through them. I want to ensure that our people feel valued and empowered within the workplace, and that those who need support feel able to seek it.
Why is the work of the BAWP still needed in 2015?
Although the Police Service has championed change and embraced the need to understand our communities and ourselves, there is still much to do. There are still challenges such as uniform, flexible working and providing support networks.
Have you ever encountered sexism during your career? Do you think your gender has ever been an issue?
Sadly, yes, although I have been fortunate to have had good support from male and female colleagues. Sometimes my gender has been an issue for some of our public, but I work hard to understand and appreciate the views of others.
What were the issues facing women in the service when you joined in 1987?The service looked and felt pretty different when I joined. I was issued with uniform and equipment that frankly wasn’t practical. There were too few role models working in specialisms, and there had not been a female Chief Constable. We have come a long way and we should be very proud of that. There is more work needed though.
What do you think the main issues facing women in the service are today?Forces are facing huge financial pressures and, as a consequence, there is significant change. Women are finding opportunities for career development and flexible working reducing. Collaboration has presented some challenges where some individuals with caring responsibilities feel unable to travel long distances to work. We share concerns with other support groups about providing advice and guidance to those who are feeling uncertain or vulnerable.
How do we get more women into the police service?
This is becoming increasingly difficult as the service shrinks and entry/ development opportunities disappear. Honest and open dialogue is needed at every level, and recognition that women bring skills and experience with them to each role. We need to encourage Forces to continue to support diversity networks who can then support individuals, especially through this period of change.
In 2013 you were awarded the BAWP’s Annual Award for Mentoring. Please tell us more about that?
I was very humbled to have been nominated via my own Force Diversity network. Many years ago, a female colleague took the time and trouble to encourage and mentor me. I have tried to re-invest that energy into supporting others to realise their potential and to flourish as people. I have been lucky to have worked with some amazing people.
You have been a representative in both the Police Federation and Superintendents’ Association. How have those roles help the way you lead your force?
I think a good understanding of people issues, the difference between employment and regulations, and also what individuals and groups want and need has helped me to develop as a leader. I strongly believe in values driven decision making within an ethical context. We should all aspire to do the right thing and our best for one another.
Who have been your role models during your career?
Key people who have influenced me have been my Grandmother, seeing female Chiefs, my friends and colleagues and polar explorer Ernest Shackleton!
What would your advice be for lower ranking women officers who look to you and wanted to follow in your footsteps?
Be authentic and true to yourself, support your colleagues, do your best for the public, work hard, be patient and smile a lot.
How will you juggle the role of being West Yorkshire Police Temporary Chief Constable and President of BAWP?
I’m very lucky to have great support, both in Force and via the BAWP committee. I enjoy and feel privileged in doing the work I do. Policing is a vocation to me and to have the opportunity to ensure that our female and male colleagues have my visible and vocal support is important to me.
What do you do when you are not being a chief officer?I try and spend time with friends and family. I enjoy taking part in sport, and chilling out in front of the TV!
Please tell our readers something they will not know about you? I am a Blue Peter Competition Badge Holder from when I was 8. I am passionate about supporting Breast cancer charities as I was diagnosed with it in 2009 and had terrific support to come through it. I have a cat called Aggie!