Research (Statista; Pew) shows that female law enforcement officers have a positive effect in their communities; however, public safety roles across various institutions, including police and fire departments, are primarily male-dominated.
“Women make up less than 12% of law enforcement overall and less than 3% of supervisory roles,” Appleton Police Department Lt. Meghan Cash said. “Women often do not think of professions like public safety so it is critical for women in the profession to continue to promote this critical career.”
Last year, Appleton PD in Appleton, Wisconsin, hosted their first annual “Women in Public Safety Day” in an effort to improve this issue by providing a comprehensive, first-hand account of those currently in the field.
“We recognized the lack of women in the public safety fields and partnered with our fire department and emergency management leaders that are female to host this event,” Administrative Support Specialist Sara Derks said. “We wanted to share with young women that these careers are possible and often needed as females bring a unique perspective to these positions.”
Their goal was to reach a young female audience as they were considering their career options. With presentations, Q&As, and hands-on demonstrations on topics such as forensic science, the event was a success with 30 attendees ages 15-20.
“Having a large number of women mentors on hand to help answer questions and guide young women on next steps in pursuing a career in public safety [helped make the event a success],” Lt. Cash said. “My favorite part was seeing the young women interested in learning more about public safety and the lasting relationships that have continued long after the event with some of the attendees.”
Appleton PD will host their second annual ”Women in Public Safety Day” on March 8, 2023. This year they are expanding their focus with a new lineup of topics and additional community partners supporting the event.
“We are hoping to provide life skills that will benefit any young adult, not just those interested in a career in public safety,” Lt. Cash said. “Our partnership with the Women’s Fund of the Fox Valley [Region] and the Monthlies Project will also teach participants about other ways of serving their community. Additionally, we will have more hands-on activities for participants, [including] a self-defense seminar and a TEMS presentation of Stop the Bleed, [an interactive course teaching life-saving techniques].”
Lt. Cash hopes that this event will become sustainable, assisting their department in supporting young women leaders in their community and ultimately leading to increased female representation in public safety.
To other departments and communities looking to increase their number of women in public service, Lt. Cash had this to say:
“Continue to find ways to support the women in your agency and encourage your department to host events like this to support young women in your community by partnering with local organizations to fund and organize on your behalf.”