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The progress of female police officers?An empirical analysis of organisational commitment and tenure explanations in two UK police forces

Dick, Gavin P.M., Metcalfe, Beverley (2007) The progress of female police officers?An empirical analysis of organisational commitment and tenure explanations in two UK police forces. International Journal of Public Sector Management, 20 (2). pp. 81-100. ISSN 0951-3558. (doi:10.1108/09513550710731463) (KAR id:3115)


Purpose of paper.

Although the number of women in UK police forces has grown rapidly, it appears that they continue to be under-represented in senior ranks. This research paper aims to establish empirically whether there is any foundation in the premise that female officers' lesser tenure and or lower levels of commitment than men explain their lack of career progress.


Using whole population surveys of two county police in the UK we compare the promotion of men and women police officers controlling for tenure. We then compare the organisational commitment of male and female officers and analyse whether female officers experience managerial and organisational influences that undermine their organisational commitment compared to men.


The findings refute some of the widespread beliefs about reasons for female officers’ lack of progress in their policing careers since the analysis indicates that gender differences in length of tenure and organisational commitment can be discounted as possible explanations for lack of advancement in these two police forces. Overall, our results clearly show that female officers are just as committed as male officers and thus cannot be justified as a reason for lack of career progression. Managerial variables were found to be the strongest influence on organisational commitment and it appeared that there was no evidence that management support or organisational support were different for female officers compared to their male colleagues.

Research Implications/Limitations.

We accept that survey methods such as ours do not capture the entirety of employee feelings and responses since they tend to homogenise male and female working experiences. However, survey methods do have the advantage that it is possible to generalise from the results and thus these two studies allow us to suggest that our findings can be viewed as providing insights to other UK police forces in particular and to the broader field of the antecedents of organisational commitment in general.

Practical implications.

The relatively low levels of organisational commitment found should be a cause for concern for senior managers in the Police. The key importance that management has in influencing organisational commitment has been shown by our findings and this indicates the importance of the current Police Leadership Development Board’s agenda to improve workforce management skills to encourage transformational leadership styles. Moreover, there clearly remains much to be done to make police HRM policies more effective in achieving equality in promotion opportunities since the data presented shows that women’s careers are lagging behind even when tenure is taken into account.

Value and originality of the paper. The paper make an original contribution by refuting widely held assumptions about the reasons for under-representation of female officers in senior ranks. It also contributes to the sparse literature that examines organisational commitment in the police and its antecedents.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1108/09513550710731463
Uncontrolled keywords: Gender, Women workers, Police, Career development, United Kingdom
Subjects: H Social Sciences
H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor > HD28 Management. Industrial Management
Divisions: Divisions > Kent Business School - Division > Kent Business School (do not use)
Depositing User: Suzanne Duffy
Date Deposited: 14 May 2008 07:07 UTC
Last Modified: 16 Nov 2021 09:41 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

Dick, Gavin P.M..

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