Skip to main content
Police Woman

Laurier professors report on women in policing

There is growing concern that police services in Canada are having difficulty recruiting and retaining female officers. Despite gains in diversifying police services, only approximately 20% of officers are women. There is a dearth of data on female officers’ experiences that would enable police services to better understand these trends to create organizational diversity. Debra Langan and Carrie Sanders, both associate professors in the Criminology department at Wilfrid Laurier University, dug into the experiences of female officers in a SSHRC-funded project in 2017.

The interest in the project from both female police officers and police services was tremendous. Their research found female officers continuously had to prove themselves to their colleagues, and taking maternity leave and even pregnancy had negative effects on the progress of an officer’s career. Work-life balance was a source of stress, as female officers tended to work the “second shift” at home, having the responsibility for the majority share of care-giving and house work.

This project led Langan, Sanders and colleague Julie Gouweloos to organize a two-day international conference that was attended by renowned scholars in the areas of gender and policing, and organizational behaviour and resource management, as well as representatives from municipal, regional, and national police services. Conference presenters and attendees discussed the state of recruitment and retention of female officers among police services as well as ways to address the low numbers of women in policing. From conference presentations and discussions emerged a report entitled, Gender, Policing and Inclusion: Opportunities for Change that provides both key insights into the state of women in policing and, of equal importance, a number of critical recommendations that have the potential to improve the conditions in which female officers carry out their duties. Further, these recommendations can ultimately lead to the recruitment and retention of more female officers and improved gender diversity.

This September, Langan and Sanders will be presenting findings from the conference and their previous research on women in policing to the Ontario Provincial Police.

Read the full Gender, Policing and Inclusion report.

Unknown Spif - $key