It was with a huge amount of personal interest that I read today’s Sunday Mirror report about misogyny in policing. After two decades working in two police forces I have had experiences that are both good and bad. When I started in 1999 it was a different world and I did face what I would call everyday sexism and comments that may not have been intended to upset and demean but had that effect on me. A lot had changed in 20 years but there are still many issues to address.
In my life to date I have worked in shops, bakeries, pubs, newsrooms, PR offices, quango organisations and police buildings. It is fair to say that I have experienced sexist behaviour in every one of those places at some time. The problems exist across the board whether it is within the team or it comes from customers. But I believe the situations are intensified where there is a male dominated environment. Cultures are able to thrive and develop and may go unchecked if there is one dominant perspective on the world.
None of my experiences have ever stopped me from doing what I wanted to but they did mean I changed and adapted. It is only after two years outside of policing that I realised how much I had hidden parts of me and developed others. All of this was done to ‘fit in’ or at least make my life easier. Did I feel that I wasn’t ‘one of the boys’? No, but I had adapted who I was to make this happen.
Don’t get me wrong I enjoyed my 20 years and would do it all again if I had the same opportunities. Police communication has an attraction, as with other public sector communication, as you can feel part of the frontline work to help people. But in 2021 and beyond there needs to be real change to foster and developed diverse and inclusive cultures. It isn’t easy and it isn’t just an issue for policing. This is something that all workplaces need to address.
A diverse workforce where people are supported for being who they are has been talked about a lot. What is needed now is action. Those at the top of organisations should not be defensive but should be open and listen to what their employees are saying. It is by working closely with employees that they will be able to make the change that is required.
People should be encouraged to go for jobs and careers that they want to do. No-one should feel ‘put off’ from reaching for their dreams. The discussion needs to move away from policing and into every workplace if we are really going to make a change.