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Survival in an “all boys club”: policewomen and their fight for acceptance

Cara Rabe‐Hemp (Criminal Justice Sciences, Illinois State University, Normal, Illinois, USA)

Policing: An International Journal

ISSN: 1363-951X

Article publication date: 30 May 2008




The purpose of this paper is to explore the experiences of policewomen to determine the extent to which female officers face resistance and obstacles to police work, to examine the coping mechanisms female officers utilized to overcome impediments encountered, and to establish common themes in female officers' success stories of acceptance and integration.


Owing to the difficulty in accessing female officers, the current research utilizes in‐depth qualitative interviews through snowball sampling. This methodology provided a rich sample of tenured female officers' experiences to explore resistance and integration.


The findings suggest despite early occupational experiences of sexual harassment, discrimination, and disrespect, after long tenures, female officers do achieve acceptance in police work. Female officers are holding high civil service ranks in police agencies and achieving new “firsts” every day, including breaking into stereotypically masculine assignments.

Practical implications

As police departments nationwide are having difficulties maintaining recruitment standards and full rosters, the current study can provide insight into the obstacles women face when joining police agencies and methods to alleviate these impediments, revealing an under‐recruited population for police agencies nationwide.


This study extends past literature by: examining female officers' experiences in a variety of agencies previously ignored in the literature; analyzing the tenure of the officers' careers to determine the onset and desistance of female officers' experiences with resistance and acceptance; and suggesting women do survive and, in some instances, thrive in an “all boys club.”



Rabe‐Hemp, C. (2008), "Survival in an “all boys club”: policewomen and their fight for acceptance", Policing: An International Journal, Vol. 31 No. 2, pp. 251-270.



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Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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