Women Only Networks: Help or Hindrance? A Case Study of a UK Police Constabulary
Holloway, Monica Ann
My case study provides a unique discussion on the experiences and perceptions of members of a UK constabulary women’s formal in-house network, which includes an exploration of the organisational and occupational cultures of the Police Service and the women’s experiences of informal networking and support within the constabulary. It also considers the women’s perceptions of women’s formal networks, their relationships and interactions with their own women’s network and their views of the benefits that their network can bring to women in the constabulary. Theories on organisational networking predominantly come from academics and researchers, and formal women’s networks and their successes are enthusiastically promoted on corporate websites by CEOs, HR managers and diversity practitioners. This qualitative, inductive study gives voice to the rank and file members of one of these networks within the environment of the UK Police Service, an organisation described as predominately heterosexist, white and male (Loftus 2008) and increasingly concerned that police budget cuts since 2010, along with associated police reforms, have had a negative effect for women and gender equality in policing. This study contributes to the literature on women networking and the little researched area of women’s formal in-house networks by researching the women’s perceptions of and interactions with their network. It explores the ways in which macro, meso and micro environments can influence the way women perceive and interact with their formal network and how the social construction of women and contexts such as organisational cultures and sub-cultures ultimately influence the failure or success of these women-only networks. My research provides a valuable and unique insight into the ineffectiveness of a police constabulary formal women’s in-house network which lacked support from members, colleagues and management, as it explores how society’s gender stereotyping combined with police male hegemonic occupational and organisational cultures and sub-cultures have had a negative impact on the efficacy and influence of the women’s network.
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