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Report 12a of the 4 November 2004 meeting of the Equal Opportunities & Diversity Board, which outlines the various pieces of work that have been devised and implemented by the MPS to support women in the organisation.

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Gender issues - MPS

Report: 12a
Date: 4 November 2004
By: Commissioner


This report outlines the various pieces of work that have been devised and implemented by the MPS to support women in the organisation. It highlights the main themes and recommendations to emerge from the recent ‘Dancing on the Glass Ceiling’ events. The report also highlights that gender related work will be co-ordinated through the inception of a single work programme. This work programme will address the issues raised at the events and apply timescales and responsible owners to each action. This programme of work will generate activity across the organisation and it will have the flexibility to incorporate matters that arise from the Morris Inquiry as well as the work that is already being progressed by a variety of related MPS forums and groups.

A. Recommendations

Members are asked to:

  1. Note the report on the ‘Dancing on the Glass Ceiling’ events (Summarised in the supporting information at paragraphs 4 to 8).
  2. Note that a work programme is being developed around the five key themes identified from the ‘Dancing on the Glass Ceiling’ events: Recruitment, retention and progression, development and support, flexible working, caring responsibilities, communication plus a sixth theme of organisational development.
  3. Endorse the coordination of actions, arising from the ‘Dancing on the Glass Ceiling’ events, and all other gender related project work, through a single work programme led by Denise Milani (Deputy Head of the Diversity Directorate) and Deputy Assistant Commissioner (DAC) Carole Howlett to report to the MPS Strategic Diversity Board.
  4. Consider providing an EODB member to participate in the MPS Gender Issues Action Group to take these matters forward.

B. Supporting information


1. In August 2001 the ‘Gender Agenda’ was published. This national programme of work sought to listen to and respond to the needs of female police officers across the 43 constabularies and to create an improved working environment with proportionate representation of women; valuing staff and developing an improved work life balance were main themes.

2. In September 2002 the MPS ‘Engender’ strategy was launched by the Development and Organisational Improvement Team, (DOIT). ‘Engender’ built on the impact areas set out in the Gender Agenda and went significantly further on two key issues. Firstly, ‘Engender’ recognises the needs and aspirations of female police staff and, secondly, the MPS Strategy also incorporates and identifies the role of men within the process.

3. Over the last two years, DOIT and the Human Resources Directorate (HR) have put in place a variety of initiatives that have been tailored to the needs of women in the organisation and designed to assist their retention and progression. These include:

  • Female and Ethnic Minority Detective Training Programme – A collaborative project between HR and DOIT. Six women and one man participated in the pilot programme, and another is underway.
  • Female Personal Development & Leadership Programme – 140 women have attended this course, which was devised to support and enhance their management and leadership skills. Due to the overwhelming response, the DOIT team are considering the possibility of running more programmes.
  • Female Police Staff Mentoring Programme – A programme being initiated for female police staff at Bands A to C, with the aim of increasing representation of women in senior roles. There are currently 40 mentees.
  • Corporate ‘Engender’ events – A series of 12 corporate events inviting delegates to consider a variety of gender related issues.
  • Childcare Co-ordinator – A new post within HR to develop a childcare policy and co-ordinate/implement childcare related initiatives.
  • Female Staff Secondments Project – Currently being developed by DOIT with the aim of developing police staff at Bands B and C.
  • HR and DOIT Career Break Empowerment Days – A series of events for those on career breaks, to appraise them of the opportunities open to them upon their return to work.
  • ‘Eve-olution’ Report – Work commissioned by DOIT, involving research into staff needs and concerns about part time and flexible working.

‘Dancing on the Glass Ceiling’ Events

4. In April 2004, a Project Board was set up to consider how the MPS could capture the thoughts and concerns of its female staff. This board included DAC Carole Howlett, Catherine Crawford (MPA) and Denise Milani. The Office of Public Management (OPM) were commissioned to devise and plan a series of ‘open space’ events that would include workshops to discuss the issues raised.

5. The principle of ‘open space’ is that anyone attending can publicly raise an issue and invite other participants to join them in a discussion to explore that matter in more depth.

6. The events were held at Epsom Racecourse, Wembley Conference Centre, Earls Court Olympia and Cabot Hall in June 2004. The MPS planned to cater for one thousand staff and in the event about eight hundred attended. There were one hundred and fifty seven separate discussion groups held over the four events and OPM used the notes from each of these groups to prepare a report for the MPS entitled ‘Securing the place and recognising the value of women in the MPS towards working for a safer London’ (report attached).

7 OPM evaluated the data gathered and gave consideration to how frequently an issue was raised to determine what the key themes were. Two broad criteria were used to determine a set of actions linked to the issues, which were the maintenance or improvement of individual or organisational performance, and adherence to the ethical values of the organisation.

8 The actions are designed to complement and build upon existing initiatives. They stem from:

  • An appreciation of the vital role women play in the MPS
  • An awareness of the significant progress already made, and;
  • A belief that by pressing on with changes and developments designed to support women, the MPS as a whole will benefit, as will the people of London

C. Race and equality impact

1. The recommendations from both the OPM and Eve-olution reports are particularly relevant to gender equality. The MPS has been pro-active in devising and implementing a variety of policies and practices that support and benefit both men and women. Recent events show that there is still more that can be done to support and achieve gender equality. The impact of adopting these recommendations, and sponsoring this work at both a Management Board and EODB level, will be positive for the organisation, enabling the MPS to achieve work around the critical areas of improved recruitment, retention and progression of women in the police.

2. The Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000 presents the organisation with a statutory duty to eliminate unlawful discrimination, to promote equality of opportunity and to promote good relations between persons of different racial groups. Women in the police will often be members of one or more minority group and this ‘general duty’, as well as all the other areas of diversity should be considered when developing policies and processes.

D. Financial implications

There are no immediate financial implications that arise from this report. However, the role of the Childcare Coordinator and the project work within DOIT are additional to existing Directorate portfolios. It is likely that any future additional cost of progressing the attached work programme is likely to be met within existing budgets.

E. Background papers

  • HMSO (2000) The Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000
  • Metropolitan Police Service (2002) Engender: MPS Blueprint action plan: Gender Agenda Workshop (produced by DOIT)
  • Metropolitan Police Service (2004) Engender Strategy Update (produced by DOIT)
  • Metropolitan Police Service and Eve-olution (2004) The way forward for part-time and flexible working in the Metropolitan Police Service
  • Office of Public Management (2004) ‘Dancing on the glass ceiling’: Securing the place and recognising the value of women in the MP towards working for a safer London
  • Office of Public Management (2004) Next steps – following up the ‘Dancing on the glass ceiling’ events: Insights gathered at workshop on 19 August

F. Contact details

Report author: Inspector Martin Wilson, MPS Diversity Directorate

For more information contact:

MPA general: 020 7202 0202
Media enquiries: 020 7202 0217/18

Appendix 1: Key Themes from ‘Dancing on the Glass Ceiling’

1 A coordinated strategy and a programme of work are being developed to address the following six themes:

Recruitment, retention and progression

2 The delegates expressed concerns around the need to ensure women received encouragement at all stages of their careers, from the point of applying and their continuing development, whether lateral or promotional.

3 Police staff were predominantly concerned with career and promotion structures (for example, senior positions being offered to external candidates in preference to in-house postings) and some perceived their skills weren’t acknowledged, and there was insufficient scope for development.

4 Police officers expressed cynicism around promotion processes and selection criteria, and a common theme was that of lack of impartiality and ‘jobs for the boys’. Additionally, they spoke of their skills and experience being undervalued when applying for positions and that their life skills, or skills acquired externally not registering as being valuable within the organisation.

5 Both police staff and officers considered that the organisation would not be able to retain women without adapting its policies, practices and culture to complement women’s lifestyles.

6 The key points that emerged were: Encourage women to apply to the Police Service, and promote appropriate structures and policies to ensure that they want to remain. Ensure fair and equitable treatment, particularly in relation to promotion.

Co-ordination and support

7 The value of training and development was emphasised by many participants, with concern that it was not always accessible to staff, especially those who required flexibility (e.g. for childcare, or part time workers). This affected motivation and the maintenance of skills, which impacted on confidence levels when considering promotion or specialisation.

8 Additionally, the concepts of support networks and peer counselling were popular themes amongst the participants with a strong message valuing the importance of senior women personnel assisting other women to achieve success. It was also noted that women have specific health and fitness needs which need to be catered for, as well as gender-specific considerations around equipment, uniform etc.

9 The key points that emerged were: Increase opportunities for personal and professional development. Ensure courses are accessible to all, including those with caring responsibilities, or who work flexibly. Establish appropriate support mechanisms for targeted groups, such as women, gay people, parents etc.

Flexible working

10 Emergent themes were those of improving opportunities for personnel to make use of the existing flexible working patterns. Some participants felt that organisational attitudes towards flexible/part time working were not only a barrier to career progression but also excluded them and made them feel isolated and undervalued. Additionally, concern was expressed about perceived inequities around pensions and other benefits for part time workers or those working shorter hours.

11 The key points that emerged were: Implement flexible working policies consistently throughout the MPS. Maintain an appropriate balance between the needs of the MPS, the individual and the rest of the team. Ensure that promotion prospects and access to training are not affected by working flexibly.

Caring responsibilities

12 Childcare and caring for family members featured highly in the seminars. A common theme was that more understanding and support was required from the organisation and police officers were particularly vocal on the difficulties of balancing childcare with their professional roles. There was a strong message that MPS assistance in this area would be greatly appreciated by employees with children. The need for flexibility in responding to carers’ requests for time off when necessary was emphasised, but childless women were less sympathetic around this subject and requested better resources for managing teams so that their specific skills weren’t over-subscribed by their departments.

13 The key points that emerged were: Improve access to childcare provision and information services. Create a network of parents, carers to provide both practical and emotional peer support. Review policies relating to caring to ensure fairness for all those with caring responsibilities.


14 The most common concern was that of lack of information about policies and entitlements, and conversely ‘information overload’ – the latter of particular concern to managers.

15 Whilst information technology was seen as a valuable tool for communication, some personnel (for example catering staff) did not have access to it, and others received minimal or no training in its use. Some women believed it was seen to be a male domain.

16 There was a strong desire to promote a positive image of the organisation (for example, by the use of ‘good news stories’ about MPS achievements) and to develop a sense of corporate pride.

17 The key points that emerged were: Effective communication is central to the rest of the strategy. Those working in the MPS want information to be easily accessible and digestible, and would like more opportunities for dialogue. Access to IT training and facilities needs to be widened.

Organisational Development

18 Comments relating to the male-orientated culture were identified in each theme. These were not necessarily expressed as criticisms, but as observations with requests that the feminine aspects be considered and incorporated into the culture as well. It was also acknowledged that most of the issues raised also affected male employees and that they should be included in future planning.

19 However, patterns of behaviour which disempowered women and eroded their confidence were identified by many participants, which they felt specifically affected women’s performance and sense of belonging within the organisation.

20 The key points that emerged were: To address the macho culture, which consists of a range of norms and behaviours from working long hours to tacit acceptance of sexual harassment and assault, sexist language and behaviour and the use of gender specific language.

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