Women, Leadership and Policing: Negotiating and Navigating Gendered Experiences




Silden, Eva M.

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This study explored the lived experiences of 21 women police officers in southern British Columbia and their gendered experiences from recruitment through promotion to positions of leadership. The research is grounded in feminist theory and employed a qualitative approach which included individual interviews. The questions that guided my study were: How are women changing policing? And how is policing changing women? Findings show that despite advances, this group of women in policing in BC continues to need to navigate what remains a hyper masculinized environment mired in hierarchies of power and authority. My participants experienced sexism and harassment in a number of ways, although some suggested it was better than before. Many experienced having to prove their value and worth on a continual basis and transforming themselves to fit into the normative policing culture. Although many are in leadership positions, promotion and acceptance remain difficult. Women who choose to have children are considered to be less committed to their career because the ladder upward has no rungs for a more committed homelife. However, my participants also spoke with pride in doing things differently and the importance of what they were bringing to policing such as being more collaborative and communicative than their male colleagues. Many had made it to positions of seniority despite the obstacles along their path. In the face of these continuing barriers, I conclude this thesis with several recommendations that I believe, as an educator working in the criminal justice sector, could help to change the culture of policing to address structural practices of gender discrimination.



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