This weeks Police Review asks the question, are women getting a fair deal in the promotion stakes? It is a fair question when 30% of recruits are now women but women in the senior ranks account for less than 10% of officers. The main conclusion of the article was to suggest that the police service needs to provide more flexible working for women officers. I think it is far more complex than that and not a situation peculiar to the police.
There are still far more applications from men to join the police than women but there are also far more potential recruits than jobs. The police could recruit 50% or more women but this would inevitably involve unlawful positive discrimination. South Wales is currently recruiting 54% and I question how they are lawfully achieving this. The fact is that the role is more attractive to men than women and I don't think this has anything to do with promotion prospects.
The police service has become introspective more than any other public service with regard to equality and ensuring fairness for all. Quite rightly, part time working was introduced in 1992 and flexible working and career breaks soon followed, giving men and women the opportunity to continue working while bringing up a family.
When I review officers flexible working requests, inevitably, they want to work from Monday to Friday between 8 am and 6 pm because that is what suits them and their child care. Little consideration seems to be given to the fact that policing is a 24/7 operation and our peak demands are evenings, particularly weekends. We cannot accommodate 10% or more of officers working Monday to Friday, day shifts when there is little demand at these times. I would also suggest that this is hardly fair on the remaining officers who have to work more anti social hours and who have less support when they are working. Flexible working needs to reflect this and if you want to remain operationally fit and ensure your career is not stalled, flexible working needs to include some evening and weekend work.
If you want a part time job at a supermarket they will tell you that there are jobs available after 4 pm when the store is busy with people shopping after school and work, and at weekends. If you cannot work those hours you won't get a job.
In my own Force we have recently had two female Chief Superintendents and an ACC. In every case these women have been supported by husbands whose own career has had to take a back seat while they have supported their wives and helped deal with many of the childcare issues so their wives can work the hours required to progress their careers to senior management.
The police service needs to ensure that women have the same opportunities as men in their careers and that part time and flexible working and career breaks are available to encourage women to stay in and return to work. That really is the end of their responsibility. The key to having more senior female officers is not allowing more women to work 9 to 5 in a busy operational 24/7 organisation, or to take career breaks and expect to return in exactly the same position as a colleague who has been working. The key surely is that more women who want families and also to achieve careers in senior management need to be having discussions at home with husbands or partners and asking for that support for their career and not allowing it to take a back seat while bringing up the family and supporting their partners. Unless you want family or nanny's to bring up your children, one or both parents needs to do this and it will inevitably curtail some career opportunities in almost any business.
You cannot both have your cake and eat it!