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Career Trajectories of Women in Policing in Australia

NCJ Number
Rachelle Irving
Date Published
February 2009
6 pages
This study examined the career paths of 1 cohort of police sworn in during 1991 in a number of Australian jurisdictions (n=638, 138 females and 500 males), in order to examine what differences, if any, existed between the male and female personnel in terms of recruitment, rank attainment, departures, and deployments.
Regarding recruitment in 1996, 13.5 percent of all Australian police service personnel were women. By June 30, 2006, the percentage of women police recruits had increased to approximately 23 percent, an average relative increase of approximately 7 percent each year; however, the proportion of female police recruits has varied significantly among Australian States and Territories, fluctuating by up to 5 percent in any year over the same period. Regarding promotion through the ranks, fewer females than males in the cohort had attained higher ranks over their first 15 years of service; however, the females who had risen to higher ranks had done so at a faster rate than their male colleagues. On average, it had taken 15 years for males in the cohort to attain the rank of inspector; whereas, the females in this rank had reached it in 13 years. Lack of deployment and experience in various areas of policing may be one of the main barriers to career advancement for women officers compared to male officers. Those who attain positions of leadership in police agencies generally have experience in a range of locations and specializations. Male to female officer ratios were highest in traffic sections and the major crime and criminal investigations branches. Some States had higher departure rates of female officers than others, and there were gender disparities in reasons for departure. Explanations for these differences require further research on the reasons for departures from all State and Territory police services. 4 figures and 12 references