25 Mar 2024
by Georgie Morgan

From the outside looking in: breaking down barriers for women in tech and policing

The harsh reality as a woman is that we do still face challenges in the workplace. From the old fashioned ‘mansplaining’, battling imposter syndrome to feeling the need to speak louder and faster for fear of being interrupted or spoken over. Thankfully, the workplace I am in, as Head of Justice and Emergency Services, is surrounded by male colleagues who champion us as female colleagues. This is not the same for every workplace.  

You only have to open a (digital) newspaper to read horrific headlines such as ‘police inspector fired for disgusting misogyny’ or ‘horrendous, sexist, homophobic and vile abuse of senior police officer condemned by Met chief’ to gain a fraction of insight into what women in and outside of policing are experiencing. A culture where misogyny, sexism and predatory behaviour still exists. Whilst it is fair to say the majority of UK police officers do perform their duties to a high standard it is clear there is an engrained and deep-rooted issue that remains where tolerance of sexism and misogyny does still exist. Since the murder of Sarah Everard and the conviction of David Carrick in 2023, Policing has been in the spotlight and quite rightly so. Policing has a long road ahead. So whilst I am not a current or former police officer, what can people like me who sit on the periphery do?  

With nearly over a decade working in Policing, with four years in technology and wider public sector engagement – which I know by comparison is not long at all – what insight can I possibly offer? For me, it’s to those starting their careers.  

Don’t be put off 

To those women who do open that digital newspaper, to those women who are asked ‘is it that bad out there’ or to those women who have had bad experiences with police and may well be put off from a career in policing, justice or public safety. My advice - don’t be. Instead, use it to empower and to drive you to deliver that change. Powerful change can happen by people, women from the outside looking in. 

I have had my fair share of experiences where I have been left thinking ‘if I was a man, I wouldn’t have been spoken to like that’ or ‘if I was a man, perhaps you wouldn’t have felt the need to repeat what I just said’. I have also left situations and gone, ‘damn, I wish I had called them out on that behaviour’. I am aware with  perhaps another 35 years or so ahead of me in my career I will continue to battle these men. But it’s important to remember it is ‘these’ men, not all men. And the more we can do something by calling out this behaviour, talking about it, the more likely we will start to see the change we all so desire.  

There is huge value bringing women into male dominated industries. From loyalty and diversity to offering fresh perspective and insight. But how can sectors like Policing attract women?  

For me, it’s about showcasing what women can do.  

Last year, I had the privilege of hosting a networking event ‘Women in Security, Policing and Defence’ which was organised in essence to celebrate women in these sectors. We had the opportunity to hear from female senior leaders and to understand how they achieved what they have, the barriers they came up against, and the work they are doing to drive change from their leadership positions. It was a truly insightful and inspiring session which not only allowed our speakers to share their negative, and at times very personal, experiences but also provided an opportunity to showcase what positive change has happened and what should come next to drive the further change needed. Whilst there were many takeaways from the session the one that stuck with me is, we need more male allies.  

We need more male allies who don’t just say they are, but act like it. Talk the talk and walk the walk.

All men, but especially those in leadership roles have a fantastic opportunity to drive change. These men really can influence culture, implement processes and can be good role models to younger men starting their career journeys. To not just come forward on important days such as International Women’s Day with a LinkedIn post, but all the time. Be visible, celebrate successes, share opportunities, challenge colleagues, make your allyship known not just by saying, but by doing as well. This will only have a positive knock on effect up and down the chain. 

Sharing knowledge, experience, best practice where organisations – and people – can learn from each other is hugely valuable. Where policing is concerned, transforming this organisational culture into a gender-equal space, improving diversity and supporting women into leadership roles, ensuring sexism and misogyny are not tolerated will require change driven from above. But, I also believe change can’t just happen from above, it needs to happen up and down the chain and from those people on the outside looking in. It is just up to those organisations and those people with the power to implement those policies, procedures and structures to enable those conversations to happen and change to be delivered. Otherwise, what’s the point. 

My experiences have taught me to make things known

  1. When I am on a call and the majority are women, make the observation known! Change is happening in pockets – so acknowledge it with your female networks. 

  1. When queuing for the ladies at a tech or policing conference, make the observation known! A few years ago, there probably wouldn’t have been a queue for the ladies toilets. 

  1. If you are spoken down to and a male colleague speaks up and supports you, make the observation known! They may have felt uncomfortable doing it and by showing that appreciation they will continue to speak out. 

Work together to drive change 

I couldn’t imagine not working across policing, public safety and justice. Even in my – so far – short career, it is not a sector I ever see myself moving away from. That has to count for something. People always ask me, why? For me, it’s about the people I surround myself with – female and male champions, ‘doing good’ and knowing the work that we are doing, albeit potentially minor in the grand scheme of things – plays an important role in our attempts to deliver positive change.  

The change we want to make might take a while, it may not even happen in my lifetime, but what I am doing is contributing to that change and for me, that’s what it’s all about. So, if you are thinking about a career in a male dominated industry, in technology, policing or any sector that you are passionate about that may still have that ‘bro culture’, look to those women in leadership roles, reach out to them and just think about the change you can drive from the inside or, the outside looking in. 

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Georgie Morgan

Head of Justice and Emergency Services, techUK