We are currently experiencing network problems with the desktop version of Police Oracle. We hope to have these resolved as soon as possible.

Police Scotland staff experience negative consequences for calling out sexism

The Scottish Police Authority has released a report on Sex Equality and Tackling Misogyny.

Police Scotland female officers and staff have acknowledged feeling that there is “no point” in challenging misogynistic behaviour and colleagues have said that raising complaints commonly leads to negative consequences, according to a new report. 

Respondents to an anonymous survey said they had seen improvements in this area over the years, however, 81% agree that sexism and misogyny is an issue while 86% female colleagues have either been subject to and/or witnessed sexism and misogyny.

Participants have referenced being excluded at work, particularly if a complaint is made, while “rank culture” contributes to a fear of calling out behaviours.

The findings come in an update report from the Scottish Police Authority's People Committee.

In late 2021, a Sex Equality and Tackling Misogyny Working Group was established and is led by Deputy Chief Constable Malcolm Graham. A delivery group is led by ACC Emma Bond. 

This latest report has been based on an online survey (528 responses) along with focus groups and one-to-one interviews.

Respondents noted “proactive steps” that have been taken to address issues – they further said that female leadership is viewed positively.

However, negative behaviours remain - including promotions of female colleagues being labelled as “tokenistic” and senior ranking female officers facing insubordination from male colleagues.

Speaking on the report at an SPA meeting this morning, ACC Bond was asked about the link between the individual experiences evidenced in the report and organisational issues. 

She said that conversations are taking place around different measures that could be implemented - for example having individuals "focussed" on issues of equality and diversity becoming decision makers and facilitators in areas such as grievances and misconduct. 

She added: "We've had conversations around if we've got a single female within a shift or a team - [whether] that potentially increases the likelihood of that individual being isolated and being part of inappropriate banter or discussion than it might be than actually if there are two females. 

"When we are working towards a gender balance actually are we doing that in a considered way that doesn't exacerbate issues? 

"It's just understanding some of those underlying causes that are manifesting themselves in individual circumstances. 

She later clarified: "The point at which we become aware of [these problems] is by having that insight and that ability to intervene and for people to speak up. 

"It's not about putting additional women in for it but I think there is an obligation to make sure there is that degree of peer support among individuals, that ability of people to feel supported enough to come forward and report issues when they get it. 

"What we ideally want to get to a point where those behaviours are not happening in the first instance. 

"But there's a recognition there is no quick fix to some of this- what we don't want to make matters worse for any individuals if there is an opportunity for us to intervene and lend that support and take action sooner." 

Some respondents evidenced in the report told the working group about hesitations to start a family for fear of negative implications on career prospects as well as being discouraged from raising formal grievances and facing bullying following reported incidents – being labelled a “grass” or “not able to take a joke”.

One respondent wrote: “We’re conditioned not to make complaints as police officers generally, and I think women feel this in particular when it comes to sexism. Things are written off as ‘banter’ and you don’t fit in if you challenge that, you’re a trouble maker.”

Male colleagues also said culture can be a barrier in reporting, particularly against a more senior officer – “…far too much final say in what happens a lot of the time, and that puts a culture where are you going to necessarily going to challenge a boss, if they’re going to be the person who decides?… but nobody will challenge that because [they’re] going to be the one who decides who gets the temp jobs who gets all the opportunities, so you’re not going to be the one who speaks up to that… or if you do your going to be sacrificing probably your own career….”

Commenting on the new report, ACC Bond said: “This was a crucial first step in understanding the extent of sexism and misogyny within our organisation.

“As the Chief Constable made clear, we know from independent reviews, court and conduct cases and from listening to our own officers and staff that people don’t always get the service or experience from Police Scotland that they need and deserve. The onus is on us to enable people to make to their voices heard and take action to address their concerns.

“Women told us about everyday sexism: the banter, the boys’ clubs, being overlooked for promotion, treated dismissively, regardless of experience, grade or rank, because you are a woman, of being told having children meant your career was over.

“Men also told us of witnessing sexism and misogyny, feeling disempowered and unable to step in but also about their own experiences of sexism.

“However, people also told us they were seeing progress and change. Women leading at every level in policing, proactive steps to recruit more women and better support for flexible working."

Leave a Comment
View Comments 4
In Other News
Women feel pressured to adhere to 'masculine norms of policing'
Lancashire offers bleep test support for female candidates
Outgoing Police Scotland Chief admits the force is “institutionally racist”
More News