Magazine article Law & Order

Improve Operations by Recruiting Female Officers, Part 3

Magazine article Law & Order

Improve Operations by Recruiting Female Officers, Part 3

Article excerpt

To develop a positive work environment for female officers, it is critical that departments have executive support for increasing the number of female officers and supervisors, utilize sponsors who advocate for 'high-potential' employees, conduct an assessment of the organizational culture, and develop a strategic plan for leading change and increasing female representation.

The critical first step to creating a positive work environment and increasing the number of female officers and leaders is to have the support of the chief executive. Without the expressed recognition and support of the chief executive to enhance diversity, particularly of women, the agency will never move beyond its current situation.

The use of sponsors is very effective in enhancing the number of females in supervisory positions. Sponsorships are close relationships between supervisors/managers who advise and advocate for individuals with high potential. Skip-level sponsorships involve leaders sponsoring individuals two levels below them in the organization. This approach enables agencies to avoid situations in which direct supervisors do not want to lose a great employee or may be intimidated by high-performing subordinates.

The third step to creating a positive environment is to conduct an assessment of the organizational culture to highlight positive aspects as well as identify problems adversely affecting the department's ability to attract female officers. To accomplish this, the department must use a variety of techniques to accurately assess the agency as well as embedded myths, biases, obstacles to attracting and promoting females. In the end, this information will provide the foundation for creating a strategy to address critical issues. There are a number of issues that should be evaluated.

How many females does the department collectively employ as well as the percentages assigned to specialized, supervisory, and command positions? Is the agency able to demonstrate how female officers have been able to progress into critical positions at the same rate as males?

When and why are female employees leaving the department or failing to seek opportunities within the organization? Assessors should be careful to not assume women are leaving to start families. Private organizations have found this belief to be misleading. In reality, they were leaving because of the organizational culture. In addition, department leaders should never characterize child care as a 'woman's issue.' With the evolving roles in the traditional family, leaders must identify and treat these as 'family issues.'

Are women treated differently than men? A superficial assessment may suggest all employees have access to the same opportunities. To properly evaluate this issue, however, it is important to dedicate sufficient resources to surveying and interviewing female employees. Conducting a confidential survey of incumbent female officers often highlights perceptions that can be investigated more closely in personal interviews or group discussions. As part of this process, it is important to examine how females perceived to have been treated during recruiting and selection processes.

In addition, issues regarding treatment once they were employed should also be examined. One national survey found female officers reported they joined agencies because the job provided them an opportunity to help people, diversity in their daily work, and excitement. …

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