To read the full version of this content please select one of the options below:

The progress of female police officers? An empirical analysis of organisational commitment and tenure explanations in two UK police forces

Gavin Dick (Kent Business School, University of Kent, Canterbury, UK)
Beverley Metcalfe (The Business School, University of Hull, Hull, UK)

International Journal of Public Sector Management

ISSN: 0951-3558

Article publication date: 6 March 2007



The purpose of this paper is to establish empirically whether there is any foundation in the premise that female officers' lesser tenure and/or lower levels of commitment than men explain their lack of career progress. Although the number of women in UK police forces has grown rapidly, it appears that they continue to be under‐represented in senior ranks.


Using whole population surveys of two county police forces in the UK the paper compares the promotion of men and women police officers controlling for tenure. The paper then compares the organisational commitment of male and female officers and analyses whether female officers experience managerial and organisational influences that undermine their organisational commitment compared to men.


The findings refute some of the widespread beliefs about reasons for female officers' lack of progress in their policing careers since the analysis indicates that gender differences in length of tenure and organisational commitment can be discounted as possible explanations for lack of advancement in these two police forces. Overall, the results clearly show that female officers are just as committed as male officers and thus cannot be justified as a reason for lack of career progression.

Research limitations/implications

It is accepted that survey methods such as ours do not capture the entirety of employee feelings and responses since they tend to homogenise male and female working experiences. However, survey methods do have the advantage that it is possible to generalise from the results and thus these two studies allow us to suggest that our findings can be viewed as providing insights to other UK police forces.

Practical implications

The relatively low levels of organisational commitment found should be a cause for concern for senior managers in the Police. The key importance that management has in influencing organisational commitment has been shown by our findings and this indicates the importance of the current Police Leadership Development Board's agenda to improve workforce management skills to encourage transformational leadership styles.


The paper make an original contribution by refuting widely held assumptions about the reasons for under‐representation of female officers in senior ranks. It also contributes to the sparse literature that examines organisational commitment in the police and its antecedents.



Dick, G. and Metcalfe, B. (2007), "The progress of female police officers? An empirical analysis of organisational commitment and tenure explanations in two UK police forces", International Journal of Public Sector Management, Vol. 20 No. 2, pp. 81-100.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2007, Emerald Group Publishing Limited