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From Research to Reality: Recruiting More Women into the Policing Profession Scroll to view more.

Increasing Representation of Women in Policing

Women are severely underrepresented in law enforcement. While women account for roughly half of the U.S. population and 58% of the American civilian labor force, only 12% of police officers in America are women. The number of women in law enforcement has only increased 2% since 2000.

Source: FBI: Uniform Crime Reporting Program, 2018

Increasing the number of women in law enforcement would not just help departments better reflect the communities they serve. More women police can increase police legitimacy and trust within communities. Policewomen can also improve department performance; for example, research has shown that they have higher reporting and clearance rates for rape cases and less use of force when policing.

Overview

RTI International’s Recruiting Women in Policing study, funded by the National Institute of Justice, is helping police practitioners and researchers understand 1) reasons behind the lack of female representation, and 2) specific messages and strategies to recruit and retain women police. Specifically, the project team:

Project Update

The Recruiting Women in Policing project team continues to work with the Greensboro (NC) Police Department (GPD) and Dallas (TX) Police Department to implement and evaluate practices to improve the recruitment of women. Both agencies are implementing updates to their recruiting websites based on best practices identified through earlier phases of the project: focus groups with women officers and an online experiment. The project team will measure the effectiveness of these materials and strategies to identify which have the greatest impact.

Recommendations for Police Agencies

Additional results of this evaluation are forthcoming. Nonetheless, agencies can take action today based on the study’s initial findings and a synthesis of existing knowledge on this topic. Given that perceived work-family conflict is one of the biggest barriers to women entering policing, and that having women role models and support networks is important, we recommend that agencies take the following four steps:

  1. Implement and communicate policies and practices to promote work-life balance (see Family Matters: Executive Guide for Developing Family-Friendly Policies, Procedures, and Culture [International Association of Chiefs of Police, 2021] for specific recommendations).
  2. Throughout the recruitment and application process, provide support that is targeted toward women, such as the opportunity to speak with women officers or attend women-focused recruiting events.
  3. Highlight the achievements of women officers in recruiting advertising materials to show prospective female applicants that individuals like them can be successful.
  4. Provide resources and strategies for addressing the physical fitness testing requirements.

Job Description Guidance Document

Agencies can take immediate action to improve job descriptions to ensure that they are more supportive of diverse candidates.

Infographic

This infographic highlights the recommendations heard from women officers about how agencies can better recruit women in policing.

30x30 Initiative

The 30x30 Initiative set an ambitious goal: for 30% of American police recruits to be women by 2030. We are pleased to support this initiative by advancing research on barriers to increased representation of women in policing and identifying strategies to draw more women into the profession.

Project Partners

RTI is proud to partner with the National Association of Women Law Enforcement Executives (NAWLEE), the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE) and the International Association of Women Police (IAWP) on this project. If increasing the number of women in law enforcement is important to you, we encourage you to:

  • Explore what your agency is doing to recruit and retain women
  • Connect with the 30x30 Initiative and commit to their pledge
  • Talk with current female officers on barriers to recruitment and retention
  • Engage with agency leadership on the benefits of a representative department

Learn More About Our Work

Listen to a special release episode of RTI's Just Science podcast, Just Recruiting Women in Policing, which covers findings from this project and steps organizations can take to increase the representation of women in policing.

Contact Us:

recruitwomenpolice@rti.org

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