The Position of Policewomen in Europe

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The Position of Policewomen in Europe Gender issues within policing have only recently become the subject of detailed academic scrutiny and there are still relatively few cross cultural studies which undertake analysis of women police officers. Research that is available mostly compares United Kingdom and United States experience (Heidensohn 1992, McKenzie 1993). The present paper seeks to make a contribution by reviewing the position of police women in some of the countries of Europe . Data are reported that derive from a comparative analysis of delegates attending the European Network of Policewomen's (ENP) Conference held in Hungary in December 1995 and the joint ENP/ International Association of Women Police (IAWP) Conference held in Birmingham 1996. Data were available from police women serving in the countries of Eastern Europe, Continental Europe and the British Isles as well as from the United States. It must be noted however, that the sample is drawn from activist women officers who are more likely to have an appreciation of gender issues than there non conference attending counterparts. Results are presented as illustrative of trends rather than definitive findings. In comparing police women's experiences four themes developed by Heidensohn (1992:199) will be used in the present paper: unsuitable job for a woman; equal opportunities; the gentle touch; and desperate remedy. UNSUITABLE JOB FOR A WOMAN Countries vary in the dates of admitting women into the police, but the opposition to their admission was almost universal. Women's policing role was to be an extension of the domestic sphere and organisationally, they were to be kept within separate lines of management. Entry of women was often preceded by l... ... middle of paper ... their women colleagues from the full range of duties and employment benefits. As women move out of their segregated status of specialist roles and departments the informal relationships between men and women at work may deteriorate as women increasing take on previously exclusive male roles and responsibilities. As policing in Eastern Europe develops equal opportunities policies then there are likely to be at least two consequences. Women may change their tolerance thresholds in terms of being restricted in job opportunities and men are likely to increase their resistance to the even diffusion of women throughout the organisation. Lessons from the West would seem to indicate that resistance, discrimination, harassment and then reform are inevitable. Awareness of these processes may only serve to foreshorten the time scale during which this cycle takes place.

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