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Celebrating Women Who Changed Policing

We want to showcase the many roles available within Avon and Somerset Constabulary, to encourage more women to consider a career in keeping our communities safe.

International Women’s Day celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women from all over the globe. The day also offers a call to action for accelerating gender equality.

Did you know that this force area lead the way in appointing some of the first women police officers in the world? This started with Desiree Mary Yandell in 1944, who became the very first woman police officer in the old Somerset Constabulary.

‘Lady clerks’ were already employed in the administrative department to replace constables who were fighting in the First World War. By 1918 there were 13 policewomen on patrol in Bristol, although it was not until 1931 that women were sworn in as constables.

Policing is often portrayed as being an old fashioned and male orientated job. Some women, who are mothers, could be put off by the prospect of balancing family life with a job in policing but here at Avon and Somerset there are many opportunities for women looking for a career change. People who work here and start families are also supported through flexible working hours or finding another role more suited to personal needs.

The force has continued to make history for women, more recently in 2016 when Sue Mountstevens was re-elected for a second term as Avon and Somerset’s Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC), a role which only seven women hold in England.

Sue said: “For me, I don’t feel being a female public leader is any different than if I was a man. I do not feel the Constabulary treat me any differently.  When I first started as PCC I was initially expecting some difficulties, in joining what has always traditionally been known as a male dominated environment.  However the reality was quite different and I was surprised at how open those around me were to working with not only myself but other women in senior positions across the Constabulary. 

“As a woman I seek equality and not priority both in society and the workplace.  Representation of women in police ranks is improving with women making up over 30% of police constables; however there is always more that can be done to ensure the workforce is more gender representative.   Most of all, I really believe that we all have to push beyond our own limitations from time to time – if I hadn’t then I wouldn’t be here as your PCC today.” 

To mark the day, PCC Sue Mountstevens is reflecting on women in policing through the ages and in particular focusing on the story of Bristol's first Chief Inspector Grace Caple:


PC Maz Collacott-Nuur is a mother but she joined the police before she started a family: “My first day I was given a handbag and skirt as part of uniform. I did my fair share of sitting with young children, even though I wasn’t a mother at the time and there were men officers on the team who had children of their own.

“Luckily things have changed since then and my experiences as a PC have been really good. I’ve been able to work in so many different departments and no two days are the same so you get such a huge range of variety. What I love most about my job is to be given to opportunity to help others and help my community.”

The force has seen an increase of 10% of women employees between 2004 and 2017, taking the total female workforce to 43%, moving towards a more equal ratio between men and women.

Significant improvements have been made with women LGBT staff applicants, and we’ve seen an increase from 0.53% in 2010 to 3.28% in 2017. However, further improvement is needed to attract more members of the black and minority ethnic community with 1.82% of our total workforce falling into this category, 1% of these are women.

Detective Maureen Kent, joined the Metropolitan police in 2003 and transferred to Avon & Somerset in 2007. She said: “When I joined I was one of only a few black officers. At the time they were doing a huge recruitment drive to get women from ethnic minorities to join and we are still continuing to do that now. I had reservations, but only because of silly stereotypical things you see and hear which I actually found never to be true once I started at Avon & Somerset police.

“People think you need to be thick skinned as a woman officer. I am a very emotional and I’ve cried at work. I’m not ashamed to say I’m in touch with my emotions - I think it’s important. You need to be empathetic to do well in this job.

“I remember friends and family asking whether I would be on patrol with a man for safety, this just isn’t true at all and most women in police would tell you the same. For most of my days in uniform I was solo crewed, obviously you need risk assess before going into a situation before going out on your own but that would apply to both men and women.”

We have been working hard to attract applicants from diverse backgrounds into all roles in policing. A recent recruitment drive has involved a more focussed approach to encourage more applications from people with BaME backgrounds.  

Nikki Watson, Assistant Chief Constable and force lead on gender, said: “I am passionate about championing female officers and staff in all parts of the organisation at all ranks and grades. We need people from all walks of life to bring their own experiences and ideas to the job so that we can represent the communities we serve.”

Avon and Somerset Police have a range of roles available with options to do front line work or to work behind the scenes in more office based roles. If you’d like to find out more about job roles on offer and volunteering opportunities within the police you can check on the main recruitment page: https://www.avonandsomerset.police.uk/jobs

Posted on Wednesday 7th March 2018
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