New network launched on International Women’s Day
When I first put on a uniform, policing was still very much in the dark ages when it came to gender equality.
We still used the ‘W’ in front of the titles of our female colleagues – as if male and female police constables somehow had a different status that needed highlighting.
Female officers even had different warrant numbers to the male counterparts – men’s started with an 'A' while women’s always started with a 'B'.
And although Alison Halford made headlines in 1983 when she became the highest ranking police woman in the country – as Assistant Chief Constable of Merseyside – the very fact this was such a big deal tells you all you need to know about the opportunities for female officers. The senior roles were dominated by men and Alison was sadly very much in the minority.
Things have moved on, of course, since those days – but not nearly as much as they should have done. Although we celebrated 100 years of women in policing a few years ago, the latest figures show that nationally, just under 30% of the workforce is female.
There is still a long way to go before we see a police force that represents the gender balance of the country, or before policing ditches its old-fashioned notions about what women are capable of.
That’s why I’m proud that Dorset Police is launching its new Women’s Network today – on International Women’s Day.
The new group is being called WIN – Women Inspire and Network – and is being set up to represent all women within the Force.
It aims to champion gender and equality within both policing and society as well as to provide a voice challenging practices and proposals in the Force.
The network also aims to identify opportunities for women to achieve in Dorset Police, including continued professional development, as well as to develop relationships within the Force that will lead to joint ventures, the sharing of ideas, support and advice.
It builds on the existing work of the WiLD (Women in Leadership Dorset) group, which has established a membership of more than 60 women over the last few years.
This group has already carried out some excellent work within Dorset Police, including commissioning a questionnaire about career progression and blocks to promotion for female Police Constables, and creating a plan to work out how the Force was going to get around the problems identified.
The Women in Leadership team was awarded the Force’s Diversity in Action award in 2015, and will continue to focus on leadership within the new network.
However, it was felt that by expanding the remit of this group to encompass the wider issues affecting women in the workplace, and creating a network that would represent all female officers and staff, even more could be achieved.
I am incredibly optimistic about the new Women’s Network and look forward to seeing the ideas they come up with over the months and years ahead.
I also hope that Dorset Police will go on to be seen as a trailblazer for championing gender equality, and setting the standard that other forces – and indeed organisations – across the country should follow.
I wish everyone a happy International Women’s Day. I look forward to a time when women are on a genuinely equal footing to men, both in the workplace and in broader society. The Dorset Police Women’s Network feels like a big step in that direction.