SINGAPORE – There has traditionally been a gender imbalance in law enforcement across Asia, but one INTERPOL project is working to address the challenges faced by women pursuing a career in policing.
In Southeast Asia, law enforcement is a predominantly male profession. Even in countries around the world with a higher proportion of female law enforcement officers, the number of women reaching senior leadership ranks still remains disproportionately low.
In the run-up to International Women’s Day, INTERPOL convened a group of 22 senior female police and immigration officers from the 10 Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries and Canada to share experiences for creating an inclusive and diverse policing culture in the region.
The five-day (26 February – 2 March) Leadership for Women in Law Enforcement seminar aimed to overcome the challenges faced by women in policing by providing the tools to promote gender diversity and the role of women in law enforcement, and building a strong professional network of female officers.
Challenges raised by the participants included gender stereotypes, balancing work and family life, and opportunities to reach leadership positions.
The seminar was held under the scope of INTERPOL’s Project Sunbird, an initiative to enhance the skills of police across the ASEAN region in combating terrorism and organized crime. Discussions were led by experts from the US Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Law Enforcement Training Centre (FLETC), with funding provided by the Government of Canada.
Sharing their personal experiences and providing mentorship to the participants were three senior policewomen:
- Inspector Isobel Granger of the Ottawa Police (Canada);
- Brigadier General Ida Utari of the Indonesian National Police;
- Assistant Commissioner Debbie Platz of the Australian Federal Police.
“The biggest opportunity for women in policing is that we bring diversity, particularly diversity of thought. When we’re making strategic decisions about how we can protect and impact our communities, the voice of the female is incredibly important,” said Assistant Commissioner Platz.
Harold O’Connell, Director of INTERPOL’s Capacity Building and Training unit, encouraged women interested in serving their communities to consider careers in law enforcement as their contributions are important for developing strong policing organizations.
With women making up 44 per cent of INTERPOL staff, Mr O’Connell said the Organization is a positive example of how gender diversity in law enforcement can be achieved.
“INTERPOL is part of the global movement towards gender parity. Capitalizing on our global footprint, we have demonstrated our commitment to bringing women leaders from different nations and policing agencies together,” he said.
This was the second INTERPOL event dedicated to women in policing issues, following a similar seminar in 2016.