University of Tasmania
whole_StewartBarbaraAnn2010_thesis.pdf (11.15 MB)

Policing - a gendered experience? : the influence of socialisation and gender identity on the choice of a career in policing

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posted on 2023-05-27, 16:36 authored by Stewart, BA
Few occupations have been so fully defined as masculine and as resistant to the integration of women as policing (Martin 1996). Despite nearly 100 years of female involvement women officers continue to contest negative stereotypes that present an image of women as unsuitable for police work. This research examines the contextual influences on constables' choice of policing as a career with an emphasis on female constables. Firstly, the research investigates whether there is a relationship between perceptions of policing as a suitable career option and individual socialisation. The primary factor identified in the literature as influencing career choice is gender socialisation - within the family, from significant others, through educational institutions and within the workplace. This factor is related to the development of personal attributes such as self-esteem and perceptions of gender-appropriate activities. Further, the research examines whether a policewoman's gender identity influences her experience of policing. A conceptual framework was developed integrating Bourdieu's (1990) concepts of 'habitus' 'field' and 'culture', Connell's (2002) concept of 'negotiated gender' and Messerschmidt's (2002) concept of situated gender performance. The research was conducted within Western Australian, Victorian and Tasmanian police services using a mixed methods approach: that is, a survey distributed to both male and female police constables; interviews with female police constables and observations in the police workplace. The findings suggest that there are more similarities than differences between male and female officers. Although different socialisation factors are involved, both male and female officers were found to have low attachment to stereotypical gender expectations and similar levels of self-esteem. Overall, female officers had higher levels of education and provided more evidence of leadership potential than their male counterparts. In interviews and observations it was found that while police culture is influential on policing practice, female officers are negotiating gender and using agency to change the way policing is performed. These findings have implications for the development of recruitment and retention strategies for police services and contribute to a sociological understanding of the relationship between gender socialisation, career choice and performance of gender in a masculine workplace.


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Copyright 2010 the author Thesis (PhD)--University of Tasmania, 2010. Includes bibliographical references. Contents: Introduction -- Ch.1_Setting the scene -- Ch. 2_Socialisation, identiry and career choice -- Ch. 3_Agency, gender socialisation and performativity of gender -- Ch. 4_Methodology and methods -- Ch. 5_The influence of institutional structures on gender socialisation and career choice -- Ch. 7_Doing gender/doing policing -- Ch. 8_Discussion and conclusion

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