Date of Award

1994

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts Honours

Faculty

Faculty of Health and Human Sciences

First Advisor

Charles Edwards

Abstract

Women have participated in policing in Western Australia for seventy five years. The first two women were employed as “Police Matrons” in roles which were restricted to what were thought to be the “feminine” tasks of dealing with female offenders, families and wayward youth, and providing clerical support to male officers. By 1941 there was a total of 3 women police in Western Australia and by 1960 their numbers had grown to twelve, however their role had changed little since 1917 and they were still seen as having limited function. By 1975 pressure had grown, not only within the police force but external to the police organisation itself, from n greater social awareness regarding inappropriate deployment of workers on the basis of sex colour, religion or ethnicity. The Women's Police Unit was subsequently disbanded and women were integrated into mainstream policing. The 1980s witnessed legislative changes regarding selection criteria used for the recruitment of new employees. No longer was it appropriate to set quotas for the number of women required, nor was it appropriate to dictate the stature and build of applicants. It was envisaged that this legislative change would enable the flood gates to open for women to enter policing. However, after nearly twenty years of Equal Employment Opportunity, this appears not to be the case. Today there are 404 women police officers out of a total of 4,228 members of the Western Australia Police Force. Of these 404 women, 18 are Sergeants compared with 960 males at that rank. This leaves 386 women operating at the most junior level of the organisation. The low number of women at Sergeant level and the fact that there are none in. the Commissioned ranks, may be attributed to their relatively recent influx into the organisation. However, there still remains sufficient cause for concern when it is realised that the force is not retaining these women at a rate much greater than their attrition. This study aims to determine the factors which contribute to the discontinuance of the police careers of female officers. An eclectic feminist perspective is offered as the basic framework of analysis for the study. Specific reference is made to that element of feminist theory relating to the marginalisation of women. The technique of gathering data is also set within a feminist research paradigm involving fifteen resignees from the Western Australia Police Force, in a process of discussion and interview on the factors which affected their decision to discontinue their chosen career. The study shows that these women experienced marginalisation within their working lives as police officers, which was a significant contributing factor to the discontinuance of their police careers. What was also identified was the overriding inflexibility of the police organisation to accommodate the specific and changing needs of women as individuals within that organisation.

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