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Perception of gender equality and fairness within the promotion process in a national police force

Gaining greater understanding of lived experiences and perceptions of equality and fairness within promotion processes. 

Key details

Lead institution
Principal researcher(s)
Anna Beaver
Police region
South East
Level of research
Project start date
Date due for completion

Research context

Female representation in the surveyed police force is the lowest of all the law enforcement agencies in the UK at just 22%, compared to a national average of 32% (Home Office, 2022). There is therefore a limited talent pool to encourage and develop organisational longevity. The surveyed force is a national force, so this research will give a unique perspective on this topic.

Research suggests that women police differently to their male counterparts and play a considerable part in the improvement of legitimacy, along with public trust and confidence. (Silvestri, Tong and Brown, 2013; Bergman, Walker and Jean, 2016; Adlam and Villiers, 2003, Homant and Kennedy, 1985; Prenzler, 1997; Itzen and Newman, 1995; Schuck, Baldo and Powell, 2021.)

The antisocial nature of policing has traditionally been problematic in relation to the retention and promotion of female officers. (Silvestri, Tong and Brown, 2013; Silvestri, 2006; Tuffin and Baladi, 2001; Halford, Savage and Witz, 1997.)

Failing to recognise potential leaders may result in individuals being overlooked or discouraged from stepping forward. The organisation, and ultimately, the public as service users, will suffer as a result. 

The purpose of this project is to gain a greater understanding of the lived experiences and perceptions of equality and fairness within the promotion process in the surveyed force.

It is hoped that the evidence gathered and the subsequent analysis will be utilised to inform policy and procedure, encouraging recruitment and retention of female officers, thus improving representation and ultimately, the perception of equality and fairness within the surveyed force. 

Research methodology

The methodology utilised is an interpretive participant action research framework with a qualitative approach. The research will be practitioner-led and facilitate innovative solutions to problems raised. 

Participants will be invited to participate in a focus group where a set list of questions will guide the conversation, and the researcher will act as the facilitator, stimulating discussion, allowing the group to take the lead.

Three focus groups are planned, two with female and one with male respondents. This will allow comparisons of attitudes and perceptions between the gendered groups. 

Participants will be invited to participate from within the organisation using internal communication channels. Due to the nature of the research, self-selection or volunteer bias has been considered, and it is hoped that sufficient volunteers will respond to the study and a random selection can be made.

Secondary data will be requested from the surveyed force to understand the level of applications compared to successful candidates which will also add validity to the analysis and evaluation. 

It is anticipated that eighteen respondents will be recruited, enabling three focus groups to be conducted. The data will be subscribed and consequently manually, or by using NVivo12, thematically analysed and evaluated along with the secondary data to enable conclusions and recommendations to be made to the surveyed force.

Research participants will be asked to give feedback on the research process to consider any positive benefits or dialogical learning as individuals. 

There is the potential for researcher bias. The risk can be minimised by being open and transparent during both the data collection stage and analysis. 

Research participation

Respondents will be recruited internally from the surveyed force. 


  • Adlam R and Villiers P. (Eds). (2003). 'Police leadership in the twenty-first century: Philosophy, doctrine and developments'. Winchester: Waterside Press.
  • Bergman M, Walker J and Jean V. (2016). 'A Simple Solution to Policing Problems: Women!' Industrial and Organizational Psychology. 9 (3), pp. 590-597.
  • Halford S, Savage M and Witz A. (1997). 'Gender, Career, and Organisations: Current Developments in Banking, Nursing and Local Government'. London. Arrow Books.
  • Homant RJ and Kennedy DB. (1985). ‘Police perceptions of spouse abuse: a comparison of male and female officers’. Journal of Criminal Justice. Vol. 13. pp. 29-47.  
  • Itzen C and Newman J. (Eds). (1995). 'Gender Culture and Organisational Change'. London, Routledge. 
  • Prenzler T. (1997). ‘A Problem-Oriented Approach to Preventing Sex Discrimination in Police Recruitment’. Griffith University. 
  • Schuck A, Baldo P and Powell C. (2021). ‘Women in Policing and Legitimacy: A Vignette-Based Study of Symbolic Representation.' Women and Criminal Justice. Vol 31. No5. pp342-359.
  • Silvestri, M. (2006) '"Doing Time": Becoming a Police Leader'. International journal of police science and management. 8(4), pp. 266-281.

  • Silvestri M, Tong S and Brown J. (2013). 'Gender and police leadership: Time for a paradigm shift'. International Journal of Police Science and Management. 15(1), 61-73.

  • Tuffin R and Baladi Y. (2001). 'Flexible Working Practices in the Police Service'. Home Office Police Research Paper No. 147. London: Home Office.

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