Women in Policing Resources

Women in Policing Resources

The percentage of women in policing has increased slowly over time, but these numbers continue to remain low, resulting in underrepresentation of women in the field. As such, it is important that agencies continue their efforts in recruiting, promoting, and retaining women officers, working to mitigate barriers as they arise and ensure an inclusive work environment. As with all diverse populations, women bring unique advantages and perspectives to the field. While increasing gender diversity will take time, doing so can help to further enrich the profession and build stronger community-police relations. 

In response to these efforts, the IACP launched the Women in Policing Task Force in 2019. Chaired by IACP President, Cynthia Renaud, fifteen law enforcement leaders participated in the initiative, representing law enforcement agencies and associations of diverse size and geographic location. Members spoke to both the barriers of, and strategies for, gender diversity, and highlighted the need for increased and ongoing research to enable a better understanding of what attracts women to the field and what strategies are most effective in retaining them.

This page is designed to bring together in one place current resources and leading practices for police leaders, their officers, and communities as they work to recruit, promote, and retain more women.

Recruitment and Hiring

To increase the number of women in policing, agencies must first understand how to tailor recruitment efforts to more effectively attract women to the profession. To do so, police leaders should look at how they are marketing their job openings, and where this information is being disseminated. Through marketing, agencies have the opportunity to directly shape their narrative, portraying images and crafting language that aligns not only with their goals, values, and mission, but also with the values of their intended audience. 

Agencies should also remain cognizant of their hiring process. Leaders must ensure that hiring criteria reflect the agency’s current policing philosophy and job duties while also ensuring an equitable, unbiased, and clear process. 

The below resources highlight various recruitment and hiring practices and speak to strategies that police leaders can adopt within their own agencies. 

 

Title

Source

Description

The State of Recruitment: A Crisis for Law Enforcement

IACP

In September 2019, the IACP conducted a membership survey to better understand the extent of the recruiting crisis, the factors that underlie current difficulties, and the impact these challenges have had on agencies and the communities they serve.

Four Steps to Bring More Women into Policing

IACP Police Chief Magazine

When it comes to attracting diverse candidates, agencies may struggle with knowing where to start. This article highlights four steps they can take to set them on the right path.

Step Up to Law Enforcement: A Successful Strategy for Recruiting Women into the Law Enforcement Profession

IACP Police Chief Magazine

In Vermont, several agencies came together in 2004 to improve the representation of women in the profession and saw immediate success. This article describes the reasons for and the implementation of this successful recruitment program.

Police Hiring in the #MeToo Era

IACP Police Chief Magazine

This article speaks to the intersection of police recruitment and major social and cultural movements and provides recommendations agencies can take to recruit a more diverse workforce.

Transforming Law Enforcement by Changing the Face of Policing

IACP Police Chief Magazine

This article provides a roadmap for increasing gender representation within law enforcement agencies.

Focus on Officer Wellness: Understanding the Physical Wellness of Female Recruits

IACP Police Chief Magazine

There are both similarities and differences between female and male officers in terms of anatomy, biomechanics, and physiology. This article highlights some of these differences to ensure optimal training, recruitment, and retention.

Are Recruit Selection Processes Holding Females Back? Challenging the Status Quo

Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police

This article highlights findings and lessons learned from a study the author conducted to examine the relationship between recruit selection and gender outcomes within a Canadian police organization.

More Than Public Service: A Field Experiment on Job Advertisements and Diversity in the Police

Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory

This study presents the results of a field experiment aimed at attracting more and different people to apply to a police force by varying job advertisements in a postcard.

Leading Practices from the Field

Best Recruiting Practices to Attract Women and Diverse Candidates to Law Enforcement

IACPlearn - Michigan State Police

This conference workshop presentation features the Michigan State Police discussing their promising practices to recruit women and diverse candidates to law enforcement careers. 

Firearms Study Hall Program

Los Angeles, CA, Police Department

The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) developed a Firearms Study Hall Program to assist recruits in preparing for and passing firearms tests. 

Mentoring Program for Female Cadets

Austin, TX, Police Department

The Austin Police Department developed a mentoring program to decrease attrition rate among females in the Academy. Since the program’s inception in 2018, there has been a 1% increase in female cadet retention.

Women are Superheroes Marketing Campaign

Vancouver, British Columbia, Police Department

The Vancouver Police Department (VPD) has developed innovative recruiting campaigns in an effort to increase the percentage of women recruits. VPD uses the marketing campaign to celebrate diversity both within its department and throughout the community. 

Met - Best Short Term or One Off Employer Brand Campaign

Metropolitan Police Service and Tonic Wonder Works

Met 100 Years of Women in Policing Campaign

Women in Policing Recruitment Page

Seattle Police Department

Sample Recruitment Page

Women in Policing Recruitment Page

Denver Police Department

Sample Recruitment Page

Promotion and Retention

As agencies seek to recruit and hire more women officers, promotion and retention becomes vitally important. Leaders must establish a culture that understands the value of diversity and promotes an inclusive and equitable work environment. This not only includes the way in which colleagues interact, but also the types of programs and services instituted to ensure a viable working condition for all.

Mentoring programs can be an effective tool for establishing trust, building confidence, and sharing valuable perspectives among officers. Furthermore, flexible work schedules, to include part-time positions, job sharing programs, or additional options for paid time off or short-term leave can aid in developing a healthy work/life balance, especially for those with familial duties at home. 

As agencies work to retain and promote their women officers, the below resources offer guidance and support, and provide leading practices from the field to help agencies navigate challenges that may arise.

 

Title

Source

Description

Women's Leadership Institute

IACP

The Women’s Leadership Institute (WLI) is a leadership training program for women leaders and those developing women leaders. The curriculum is focused on teaching participants evidence-informed leadership theories to help them inspire followers, lead groups, and achieve organizational goals.

Overcoming Tokenism and Gender Barriers: The Critical Role of Nongovernmental Organizations for Women in Federal Law Enforcement

IACP Police Chief Magazine

Federal law enforcement agencies increasingly have to compete for quality candidates in order to reflect the diversity of the communities they serve. This article highlights the role that nongovernmental organizations can play in helping to retain women in the policing profession. 

Chief's Counsel: From Policing to Parenting

IACP Police Chief Magazine

This article speaks to three requirements that federal law places on agencies when interacting with lactating employees. 

Chief's Counsel: The Pregnancy Discrimination Act

IACP Police Chief Magazine

Added in 1978 to Title VII of the U.S. Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) prohibits employment discrimination based on a woman’s pregnancy or potential for pregnancy. This report provides a high level explanation of the PDA and its impact on law enforcement agencies.

Building a Better Bench for 21st Century Policing

IACP Police Chief Magazine

Getting the right applicant in the door is only half the battle; understanding how best to retain today’s young adult also requires careful consideration. This article pinpoints women-targeted recruitment examples while also exploring best practices for increasing retention.

In Search Of Excellence: Lessons On Leadership, Life, and How to Empower Female Leaders to Rise

IACPlearn

This conference workshop presentation provides law enforcement officers with new tools, perspectives, and insights about how they can achieve excellence, help others achieve excellence, and inspire women in their agency to step into the greatness they are destined for. 

Leading Practices from the Field

Flexibility for Operational Success

Australian Police Department

The Australian Federal Police (AFP) has instituted many flexible work arrangements to enhance work/life balance for agency personnel. The aim of the program is to increase accessibility for those who would benefit from part-time hours, job sharing, remote work, and other forms of work flexibility. 

The Diversity Career Champions Program

Ontario Provincial Police

The Ontario Public Service developed a Diversity Career Champions Program to increase the diversity talent pool and strengthen coaching skills among public service members. 

The Met Baby Programme

Metropolitan Police Service

Following the results of a 2018 parental survey and in support of the 100 years of women in policing campaign, the MPS acknowledged that it needed to improve the support offered to expectant and new/existing parents. During late 2019, they launched the Met Baby Programme to offer a holistic support service for expectant and new parents, as well as line managers

Expansive Reports and Policies

Title

Source

Description

Women in Policing: Breaking Barriers and Blazing a Path

NIJ

Based on conversations at NIJ’s Research Summit on Women in Policing, this report documents the current state of research on women in policing across the areas of culture, performance, recruitment and retention, and promotion. It also sets out the agenda of research questions that attendees collectively prioritized.

Report Out from Rhode Island Regional Roundtable on Recruitment, Hiring, and Retention

Collaborative Reform Initiative Technical Assistance Center (CRI-TAC)

On January 29, 2020, CRI-TAC hosted Recruitment, Hiring, and Retention: National and Local Trends, a roundtable discussion in Portsmouth, Rhode Island. This document summarizes and annotates the discussions from that roundtable, supplemented by a list of additional resources.

Pregnancy - Policy and Concepts & Issue Paper

IACP Policy Center

These documents establish procedures to modify full-duty assignments and, when needed, provide temporary, alternative duty assignments to eligible pregnant law enforcement officers when they are unable to safely perform all of the essential functions of their normal assignments.

Harassment, Discrimination, and Unprofessional Conduct - Policy and Concepts & Issues Paper

IACP Policy Center

These documents provide guidance regarding harassment using technology, the importance of training, legal remedies, and the prohibition and prevention of workplace harassment and discrimination.

Employee Mental Health and Wellness - Considerations Document and Concepts & Issues Paper

IACP Policy Center

Personnel are the most valuable assets in a law enforcement agency. The documents provided are intended to assist agency personnel in developing policies, procedures, and guidelines to assist law enforcement employees in navigating potential mental health and wellness challenges.

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