I’m Still in the Blue Family: Gender and Professional Identity Construction in Police Officers

Abstract

With an increase in gender equality policies and gender balance targets within traditionally male professions, organisations such as the police service are experiencing changing demographics. How these shifts influence the construction of professional identity is unclear. Drawing on focus group data, this study aimed to explore identity construction of police officers across gender using a thematic analysis method. Two themes related to identity construction were found to be common to both male and female police officers: ‘Working within a blue family’ and ‘Being a copper is a job for life’. However, the way in which these themes were articulated differed between male and female officers, with male officers experiencing more difficulty than female officers in terms of positioning their identity within the evolving police culture. The findings from this study have implications for gender policies in the workforce as they suggest that men may experience more difficulty than women in adjusting to a gender-diverse workforce, and that professional identity within traditionally male professions is more complex and nuanced than what was previously assumed.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    In Australia ‘latte drinkers’ denotes a class distinction, latte drinkers are most likely white-collar office workers.

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Correspondence to Sonya Winterbotham.

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As a retrospective study, ethical approval was not required. The authors declare that use of data in this study complies with the law and the national ethical guidelines of Australia.

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Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study during the original data collection.

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du Plessis, C., Winterbotham, S., Fein, E.C. et al. I’m Still in the Blue Family: Gender and Professional Identity Construction in Police Officers. J Police Crim Psych (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11896-020-09397-9

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Keywords

  • Police officers
  • Identity construction
  • Gender differences
  • Gender policies
  • Male professions