DALLAS, Pa. – Penn State Wilkes-Barre hosted a panel discussion titled “Women in Law Enforcement: Successes and Challenges of Women Navigating Non-Traditional Roles.” The event, hosted in person and also streamed live, featured three women who work in law enforcement sharing their experiences.
Panel speakers were Iris Richardson, director of diversity, equity and inclusion, Penn State University Police and Public Safety; Lisa Layden, Chief of Police, West Hempfield Township, Lancaster County; and Nadin Spieß, German federal agent. Richardson and Layden spoke in person, while Spieß appeared via Zoom from Germany.
Rebecca Sarver, assistant professor of criminal justice education and coordinator of the criminal justice program, organized the program.
“I’ve always had an interest in how women navigate non-traditional jobs, stemming from my own experience in the military 30 years ago,” Sarver said. “After convening this panel, I was dismayed to learn that women are still struggling to be seen as an asset in law enforcement. Although we have made progress, we are still not I believe that law enforcement should ask male officers to say something when they see injustice or harassment from another female officer.This would go a long way in changing cultural.
Richardson, who oversees 22 campuses in his role with Penn State, said diversity, equity and inclusion is a new career path in law enforcement. She spoke about Penn State’s commitment to the 30X30 Pledge, a national initiative that aims to have 30% of police departments staffed by women by 2030.
“Research suggests that female officers use less force and less excessive force, are perceived by communities to be more honest, and make fewer discretionary arrests, particularly of non-white individuals,” Richardson said. “Currently, there are only 12% women in law enforcement and only 2% in senior officer positions. We need to increase this number.
She said Penn State University Police and Public Safety had a 16% female employment rate, with 7% in senior positions. Although the University is above the national average, she said there is still a need to continue recruiting and retaining female officers.
Layden spent 27 years on the force, working her way up to her current role as Chief of Police, becoming the first woman in Lancaster County to hold the position. She recently obtained her doctorate after completing her doctoral thesis on the topic of women in the police.
“Until the 1970s, the fields of law and medicine were extremely male-dominated. It’s changed in those areas over the last 30 years, but policing seems to be staying there,” Layden said. “I wanted to see the reasons behind it. For my thesis, I interviewed 45 female police officers in six different states. When I analyzed the data, I found that gender discrimination was still very prevalent. Hiring practices need to change, particularly with regard to promotion and specialization.
She said the overall image of the police did not appeal to many women, and women in law enforcement often struggled with policies she called “unfamily-friendly”.
“When I watched police recruitment videos on YouTube, most of them were very militarized and seemed to indicate that you were part of a SWAT team every day. Are these the kind of people we want to attract in the policing?” asked Layden. “Police leaders, civic leaders and community groups as a whole need to look at what we really want our police to do. different, using communication more than aggression and force.
“Pennsylvania doesn’t have mandatory maternity leave. That’s definitely an area that limits women in law enforcement. Sometimes they’re at a point in their career where they feel like they have to choose between having a family. and having a career,” she continued. “It’s about men and women. to have a family and to be happy and healthy.
Spieß presented her perspective as a woman in law enforcement in another country, giving an insight into the different policies in Germany. She works in the Threat Assessment Unit of the Bundeskriminalamt, or BKA, within the Federal Criminal Police Office, which specializes in Islamic terrorism and is based in Berlin.
“We have quite different structures in Germany than you have in the United States,” she told attendees. She explained a law passed in 2001 to promote equality in the federal government sector. The law requires women to be involved in all personal, organizational, and social decisions made by a federal government agency. It also calls for provisions providing for different working time arrangements, support for women to reintegrate into the labor market after parental leave and specially equipped rooms for parents and their children for short-term situations.
“We have a lot of women in part-time positions. No disadvantages are allowed for part-time employees,” Spieß said. “We also set up mentoring programs to develop women who want to take on leadership positions. We try to motivate them to take these positions and find their way to a career in law enforcement.
Due to the law, the number of women in the BKA has increased in almost all jobs and careers, she said. However, there is still significant under-representation in leadership positions. The BKA began to investigate when and where women lose interest on their way to leadership positions.
“I had the opportunity to have a good family life because we have a law that allows me to do that,” Spieß said. “It’s a very comfortable situation for women in the federal administration in Germany. Women in other fields do not have the freedom to choose part-time work, and this law does not apply to the private sector.
At the end of the panel, participants were able to ask questions of the presenters. Presenters answered questions about career paths in their fields, challenges they’ve faced, and benefits of a criminal justice degree, among other things.