Debunking gender role myths and
building effective law enforcement organizations free of workplace inclusion
and promotion barriers increases public trust, enhances work productivity, and
reduces financial liabilities. Through collaborative leadership, law
enforcement administrators can eliminate the negative effects of gender role
myths in the workplace and build exemplary organizations.
It is critical to understand gender role myths and the consequences
of these myths. The research on gender role stereotypes is vast and offers law
enforcement administrators important insights to understanding how stereotypes are
learned, shape leadership behaviors in adulthood, and negatively affect legal
outcomes for local governments. The following insights are worth noting:
Beliefs Influenced by Peers
Beliefs, values, and norms about the role of women in the workplace
are greatly influenced by family, peers, and teachers. Family, peers,
and teachers wield significant influence over the beliefs, values, and norms law
enforcement administrators have about the role of women in the workplace. From
birth through adulthood, parents, close friends, and teachers provide verbal
and non-verbal cues about the “appropriate” role of men and women in the workplace.
include teaching young boys they are to be masculine and competitive while teaching
young girls to be feminine and less competitive. Boys are taught to be the
breadwinner and work in competitive/ masculine fields such as professional
sports or firefighting, while girls are taught to be the caregiver of the
family and to work in less competitive/feminine fields such as secretarial or
social work. Men should be the breadwinner while the woman should be the
caregiver for the family.
family, peers, and teachers and an irresoluteness to question their wisdom,
insights and advice on gender roles legitimizes gender role stereotypes. Placing
family, peers, and teachers on pedestals without questioning their wisdom, insights,
and advice about the role of men and women in the workplace strengthens the
effect of gender stereotypes in the minds of law enforcement administrators. Questioning
the validity of learned gender roles is a difficult and personal challenge for the
law enforcement administrator because doing so brings into question the
validity of the wisdom, insights, and advice of his/her family, peers, and
role stereotypes render law enforcement administrators vulnerable to engaging
in workplace discrimination. Gender stereotypes reinforce and enhance
opportunities for law enforcement administrators to engage in discriminatory
behaviors against women in the workplace. Failing to assign job tasks to female
police officers because the law enforcement administrator believes a man is
more masculine for the task and/or denying promotion opportunities because the
workplace environment consists of a “good ole boys” club where female police
officers are excluded from job-related discussions and activities are common
role stereotypes diminish leadership capability and autonomy resulting in a
need for government-established leadership directives and equality policies. Passage of the 1963 Equal Pay Act, 1964 Civil Rights
Act, 1972 Equal Employment Opportunity Act, 1973
Crime Control Act, and the 1978 Pregnancy Act are examples of
government-mandated leadership actions to thwart gender role stereotypes in organizations.
Consent decrees requiring federal monitors to oversee
the implementation of non-discriminatory practices in the workplace are another
example of how gender stereotypes solicit government-mandated leadership
The economic cost of workplace gender discrimination is staggering.
In 2012, private sector employers paid out approximately $356 million to settle
workplace discrimination and harassment lawsuits while in the public sector, a
county in Illinois paid $7.6 million in a discrimination lawsuit and a hospital
in Sacramento, Calif. paid $168 million in a sexual harassment lawsuit.
Law enforcement administrators require
practical solutions for eliminating the negative effects of gender discrimination
in the workplace. A collaborative approach with General Counsel, Human
Resources, educators, and staff can help. However, the law enforcement
administrator must first self assess and identify personal negative motivations
such as a hunger for power, arrogance, defensiveness, fear and ego before
effective collaboration can begin.
The law enforcement administrator
must exemplify and practice a collaborative style to help eliminate feelings of
alienation by female police officers. With this in mind, the following
collaborative measures can help in unifying the law enforcement organization
around a common goal of maintaining a discrimination-free workplace, compliant
with the law.
Know the legal mandates governing gender
discrimination in the workplace. Every law enforcement administrator, police
officer and staff member of the organization must know the laws governing
gender discrimination in the workplace and the legal consequences for violating
those laws. Law enforcement administrators must take an active role in
coordinating the education of their officers and staff.
Merely posting federal discrimination
laws in the break rooms is not enough. General Counsel and Human Resource departments
can offer guidance. State Bar Associations may also provide assistance in
locating certified attorneys who specialize in discrimination law and can
facilitate workshops on discrimination laws and the consequences for violating
Conduct gender-stereotype awareness
training. This step involves the law enforcement administrator arranging awareness
and sensitivity training on gender role stereotyping and allows participants an
opportunity to learn where and how their beliefs, values, and norms about
gender roles evolved and to debunk gender role myths in a collaborative manner.
Human Resource departments are a good source for guidance in conducting gender
stereotype training, along with college and university public relations offices
for referrals to certified educators.
Determine if the beliefs, values, and
norms of law enforcement administrators, police officers, and staff toward
women’s roles in the workplace conflict with the legal mandates governing
If the beliefs, values, and norms held
by law enforcement administrators, police officers, and staff about women’s
roles in the workplace conflict with legal mandates governing gender
discrimination in the workplace, establish appropriate steps to remedy the
conflicts and comply with the law. Several training exercises are available and
used globally. General Counsel, Human Resource departments, and certified
educators serve as good sources for identifying and utilizing appropriate
Design and implement an ongoing
collaborative plan to maintain a discrimination-free work environment,
compliant with the law. The ongoing collaborative plan should have the unifying
purpose of eliminating gender role stereotypes, establishing gender neutrality in
the workplace as a core value, and reduce employee stress and the financial liabilities
associated with gender discrimination in the workplace.
Law enforcement administrators,
police officers, and staff should participate in the design of the plan and
have a feeling of inclusion. To guide the process, Human Resources may
recommend a facilitator. Keep in mind that the plan may require modifications
once implemented. Law enforcement administrators must be flexible.
Collaborative leadership is a
unifying approach law enforcement administrators have available to debunk
gender role myths and strengthen their organizations. When organizations learn
and problem solve as a team, gender stereotypes are weakened and public trust,
work productivity, and liability protections are enhanced.
Lisa R. Grace is a Sergeant at a Michigan public safety agency. She received her Master of Public Administration from
Central Michigan University and has served as a visiting scholar at a community
college teaching criminal justice courses. She may be reached at
Christopher Petras is an independent
management and public policy consultant. He received his Doctor of Public
Administration from Western Michigan University and has served as a visiting
scholar teaching graduate and undergraduate courses.