Child Care Responsibilities Limiting Woman From Reaching Higher Ranks

Many women are unable to reach the higher ranks in Hampshire Constabulary because they still bear the majority of child care responsibilities, the force’s Federation has said.

Zoë Wakefield, Federation Chair, called for better flexible working arrangements to enable officers to juggle the demands of parenthood.

She said: “It is really difficult to strike the right balance. It’s really tough for the parent that’s taking on the majority of the childcare, which is still predominantly the woman. It is really, really hard to do part time working and to go for promotion.”

Zoë referred to a promotions process that saw seven men and seven women make it to chief inspector – which was lauded as a great success until it was pointed out that not one of the female candidates had children.

Zoë said: “A lot of people say to me, ‘Why didn’t you go for promotion? Why didn’t you go higher than sergeant?’ It was because it would have been a nightmare. As a sergeant I had my flexible working sorted, I was able to have a decent amount of time with my kid and do my job.

‘I was full-time but I was able to do both. If I’d gone for promotion to inspector, I could have been posted anywhere in the force, doing any role, with any hours. That would have massively thrown up my kid’s life into turmoil. It was tough and quite a lot of the time I didn’t get much sleep; but it worked.”

While flexible working is hard to arrange in an emergency service, Zoë argued that more could be done to support women into higher ranks.

She added: “We’ve got it good now for PC and sergeant level. It seems to work well, most people can get what they want, even if it means moving teams or moving to a different station.

“But the service needs to look more around the roles you can do further up. When we’ve got so many chief inspectors that are regularly working 50-hour weeks, actually you could have a part-time chief inspector working alongside them, doing their work, so they then both get a good work/life balance. And they could create loads of roles, from inspector up, that are part-time roles. But a lot of it comes down to money.”

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