Women in Law Enforcement: Navigating Police Culture

Women in Law Enforcement: Navigating Police Culture
Duration: 60 Minutes
Module 1Resources
Recorded on: 2019-08-28
Unit 1Slide Deck: Women in Law Enforcement: Navigating Police Culture
Unit 2Workbook: Women in Law Enforcement: Navigating Police Culture
Unit 3Recording: Women in Law Enforcement: Navigating Police Culture

Law enforcement is a male-dominated field and one has to ask if it is the culture that is preventing women from joining it and rise to leadership positions. From addressing recruitment and fitness standards, promotions and assignments, this installment of the Women in Law Enforcement series will address how women navigate police culture.

Today’s instructors are two women at the forefront of policing research and service. Dr. Cara Rabe-Hemp is a member of the faculty of the Department of Criminal Sciences at Illinois State University. She does research on police culture and how it manifests in behavior and opportunities in the field of law enforcement. Meanwhile, Assistant Chief Sheryl Victorian is a 26-year veteran of the Houston Police Department, currently serving as its Assistant Chief for the last two years. Throughout her service, she’s earned numerous awards and commendations for her dedication to the field.

Together, they will be sharing research findings, theories, and real-life case examples that support it. Points discussed include:

  • Defining culture, examining the existing police culture, and how women have been fitting in the culture.
  • Sheryl’s personal experience navigating police culture as a rookie officer and how she was able to prove her competence and skills.
  • The advantages of hiring women based on research that positively impacts the whole organization.
  • Statistics from across the US and for Houston PD that paint a picture of the underrepresentation of women in policing particularly in leadership roles.
  • The different challenges faced by women in the law enforcement field.
    • Acceptance and respect
      • Women tend to be isolated preventing them from fostering relationships and seizing opportunities.
      • The two personas that women tend to adopt to acclimate to the culture.
      • How mentoring and advocacy can address issues on acceptance, respect and isolation.
    • Hostility, harassment, and discrimination
      • The normalization of harassment in law enforcement where only the most egregious cases are reported.
      • How women in policing experience higher rates of harassment.
      • How agency policy and a shift in culture can eliminate harassment, discrimination, and hostile work environment.
    • Gender roles
      • How gender roles prescribe the type of job women are assigned into.
      • Proving one’s competency in whatever assignment to debunk gender roles.
    • Family accommodation
      • Requiring more family-friendly provisions to help officers attend to their families’ needs.
    • Strategies for change that agencies may implement.
      • Recruitment practices that broaden the pool and allow better diversity.
      • Policies that address the challenges identified.
      • Practices that help train the next leaders that explore pathways and remove the barriers to leadership.
    • The pathways to leadership women can put into effect.
      • Mental preparation through education, keeping up to speed with skills and experiences needed, and familiarizing with leaders to emulate.
      • Taking on informal leadership roles and opportunities.
      • Diversifying experiences to get a better feel of how an organization runs as a whole.
      • Networking internally and externally to foster working relationships.
      • Developing professionally through various avenues and organizations.
    • Clarifications during the Q&A were about:
      • Experiences where men perceived women as a threat.
      • How men can help women advance in their careers and accomplish goals.
      • Why there are more women working as civilian staff than sworn.
      • Other options for women to grow within their career without necessarily having to promote.
      • Men’s apprehension to provide mentorship in fear of the actions being taken the wrong way.
      • Finding a suitable mentor and how mentoring works.
      • How the military does recruitment, retention, and promotion that may be applied to law enforcement agencies.
      • Activities and programs agencies are implementing to get women to join the force.
      • Further research required to understand the topic and its intricacies.
      • How to get more women to pass the promotions exam.


Other Webinars in this series include:


Mentioned during this Webinar:


Audience Comments:

  • “Very good information about issues females face in law enforcement. Thanks to all!” — Anthony
  • “We need more women in law enforcement and the women who are in law enforcement need to recruit more women to the profession.” — Cheryl
  • “This was a valuable webinar for female officers. I learned some insights on this topic that I can share with my agency as we prepare for the agency’s future.” — Gary
  • “I thought it was a great webinar. Very informative. Love the academic and practitioner tandem presentation format. Have made a note of recommended reading! Thanks!” — Jessica
  • “I appreciated the academic and practitioner perspective on this topic and encourage additional and more current research on the topic.” — Karin
  • “I definitely like the female-specific topic. I am also appreciative that it included the male role, as well as many trainings, fail to even mention that there is one.” — Katharine
  • “I have a lot of respect for the female officers in our department and I wish more women would look to policing as a career choice.” — Ken
  • “I liked the seven or eight immediate takeaways that Chief Victorian mentioned. I also found it interesting that advocacy is more important than mentorship. Because of this, those informal relationships/networks are even more important.” — Michele
  • “I found this training to be very insightful. I’ve been on the job for 22+ years and started my supervisory position much later in my career compared to my male colleagues. Instead of advancing my career for financial benefits, I always felt it important to know more about the job and how to properly lead people. By gaining that internal growth, I believe I’ve gained more respect from my fellow officers.” — Shamode




The National Association of Women Law Enforcement Executives (NAWLEE) is the first organization established to address the unique needs of women holding senior management positions in law enforcement. NAWLEE is a non-profit organization sponsored and administered directly by law enforcement practitioners. Our mission is to serve and further the interests of women executives and those who aspire to be executives in law enforcement.







Additional Resources
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