Exploring Gendered Environments in Policing: Workplace Incivilities and Fit Perceptions in Men and Women Officers

Date01 December 2020
Published date01 December 2020
Subject MatterArticles
Exploring Gendered
Environments in
Policing: Workplace
Incivilities and Fit
Perceptions in Men
and Women Officers
Rachael M. Rief
Samantha S. Clinkinbeard
Research indicates that women are still underrepresented in policing and that police
culture is not fully accepting of its sisters in blue. As police organizations strive
toward building an inclusive workforce, we must understand how women, already
in the field, view their place and experiences within their jobs, organizations, and
workgroups. Thus, in the current research, we use a comparative sample (n¼832)
of male and female officers to examine perceptions of fit in the job, organization, and
workgroup, and how these perceptions relate to reports of workplace incivilities.
Findings indicate that women "fit in"with the job and the broader agency, but they are
less likely than men to feel they belong within their workgroup. This relationship was
partially mediated by workplace incivilities, indicating that women’s experience of
subtle forms of discrimination partially explains their lower levels of fit in their
women, policing, fit, discrimination, police culture
University of Nebraska Omaha, Omaha, NE, USA
Corresponding Author:
Rachael M. Rief, UNO Campus, 6001 Dodge Street, 218 CPACS, Omaha, NE 68182, United States.
Email: rrief@unomaha.edu
Police Quarterly
2020, Vol. 23(4) 427–450
!The Author(s) 2020
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/1098611120917942
In general, the most satisf‌ied workers tend to make the best workers (Oswald
et al., 2015; Saks & Ashforth, 1997). The list of factors that contribute to job
satisfaction is long. Important to that list is the extent to which employees feel
that they belong to, match, or f‌it with their career f‌ield, coworkers, and orga-
nization (Gabriel et al., 2014; Saks & Ashforth, 1997). Those who feel a con-
nection and see a match between their skills and the job are more likely to stick
around, work hard, and recommend the job to others (Cable & Judge, 1996;
Dawley et al., 2010; Gabriel et al., 2014). As in any other career f‌ield, this idea is
true in policing. The concept of f‌it may be especially important in policing,
however, as some groups, such as women and people of color, have historically
been left out and had to f‌ight their way in, against resistance. When a group has
been historically excluded, establishing f‌it may take more effort and resilience
because structures and cultures were not developed with them in mind. In the
current article, we examine (a) the extent to which women police off‌icers per-
ceive that they f‌it in the environmental context of policing, (b) the extent to
which their perceptions align (or not) with those of their male counterparts, and
(c) the extent to which artifacts of the traditional (exclusionary) structure and
culture explain the relationship between gender and environmental f‌it percep-
tions. We argue that off‌icers’ perceptions of f‌it, and factors that inf‌luence it, are
important to understand to improve the retention of current off‌icers and recruit-
ment of new ones. Further, the existence of gender differences may signal areas
in need of attention, particularly when it comes to improving the representation
and integration of women in the historically male-dominated f‌ield of policing.
Policing started as a career for men, but signif‌icant social and political change
allowed women to break into the f‌ield. Because of extended provisions to the
Civil Rights Act of 1964 and various lawsuit-driven consent decrees, policing
experienced multiple periods of growth in the representation of women during
the latter part of the 20th century (Archbold & Schulz, 2012). The number of
women in the f‌ield drastically increased from about the 1980s to 1990s; however,
since the early 2000s, growth has stalled (Cordner & Cordner, 2011; Kringen,
2014; Lonsway et al., 2003). Women represent about 47% of the total U.S. labor
force (United States Department of Labor, 2017) but only 12% to 13% of the
U.S. police population (Hyland & Davis, 2019; United States Department of
Justice, 2019). Representation is even lower for women of color. Women rep-
resented 12% of law enforcement in 2016, but only 2% of all off‌icers were
Hispanic females, and only 3% were Black females (Hyland & Davis, 2019).
Further, although research on retention is lacking, that which does exist indi-
cates that even when they do join, women are often retained at lower rates than
men (Doerner, 1995; Felkenes et al., 1993).
Women’s stunted entry and retention may be attributed to a variety of inter-
nal and external factors, including gendered processes, gender socialization, and
masculine police subcultures (Brown, 2007; Brown, Fleming, et al., 2019;
Corsianos, 2009; Garcia, 2003; Morash & Haarr, 2012). The masculine
428 Police Quarterly 23(4)

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