Future of policing report

Striving for even greater gender diversity

For An Garda Síochána, enhancing its gender diversity has been a key part of its cultural change and organisational transformation programme.

This is why it was especially noteworthy that this year An Garda Síochána was welcomed as the 300th member of the 30 Per Cent Club’s Irish Chapter.

The 30 Per Cent Club supports the achievement of a minimum of 30 per cent gender balance at all senior decision-making levels in companies/organisations nationwide.

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris says: “For me, it is important when future generations look back on this next phase in our history, they see an organisation that not only strived for equality, but also delivered. As of March 2023, there are more than 6,000 female personnel working right across An Garda Síochána.

“Women make up 30 per cent of all serving police officers, putting us above the European average in terms of female representation within police services. Meanwhile, women account for more than 70 per cent of all Garda staff. We can be proud too of the fact that more women hold senior leadership roles in An Garda Síochána than ever before.”

An Garda Síochána’s two deputy commissioners are women, and women now make up more than half of the Garda Senior Leadership Team. With such a considerable number of women excelling in senior positions, it is reflective of the marked improvements that have been made to address the gender balance within An Garda Síochána. So much so, that An Garda Síochána is now looked at internationally as a measure of what can be achieved.

This is a point recognised by Deputy Commissioner Shawna Coxon, who joined An Garda Síochána from Toronto Police. Deputy Commissioner Coxon notes: “There are more than double the number of women in policing here than in Canada and I have observed wonderful support and encouragement between women in An Garda Síochána.

“At present at the top three levels of sworn members in An Garda Síochána (Commissioner, Deputy Commissioners and Assistant Commissioners), six of the 11 positions are held by women. When you include the seven executive staff members of the Senior Leadership Team, 10 of 18 are women. It is a dynamic, effective and collaborative team.”

She adds: “I am acutely aware of the sacrifices of the many women who have come before me and I am grateful that they bravely stepped out. Their actions allow me to be here today. I hope my actions now will create new opportunities for others in the years to come”.

Leaders in the organisation have also highlighted the key role they play in encouraging women to aspire to similar leadership positions.

Eimear Bourke, Executive Director of Strategy and Transformation says: “Since I joined An Garda Síochána, I have been delighted and truly inspired by the professionalism, openness, collaboration, and support offered to me by people right across the organisation. I am a firm believer in the adage, ‘if you can see it – you can be it’.”

She highlights that in recent years, An Garda Síochána has made significant strides in creating a more diverse and inclusive organisation.

“An Garda Síochána’s inclusion in the 30 Per Cent Club is a recent example of this. While everyone has a role to play in promoting greater diversity and inclusiveness – a key part of our role as senior leaders in An Garda Síochána is to provide the opportunities and environment where women feel supported and encouraged to achieve their full potential.”

Among Garda staff, women make up approximately 50 per cent of all Executive Director, Principal Officer, Assistant Principal, Higher Executive Officer, and Executive officer roles, while women make up 75 per cent of its clerical officer grades.

Kate Mulkerrins, Executive Director Legal, notes that since she joined in 2017, she has seen a trebling of female participation on the senior leadership team.

“This ‘extraordinary’ level of female participation is matched by the increasing levels of female sworn membership which is nearly one-in-three, a very significant proportion by international standards, and an overwhelming percentage of female participation at all grades of Garda staff.

“Gender is of course only one strand of diversity, but it is a very important indicator of inclusivity and equality. In my experience equality in one area begets equality in others. The challenge now is to similarly expand all strands of ‘equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI)’ in our workforce, eliminating discrimination, ensuring equality of opportunity and treatment of all persons who work within An Garda Síochána and in the treatment of all the communities served by An Garda Síochána.”

An Garda Síochána has developed an EDI strategy to work towards these goals.

The first step for women in An Garda Síochána was made in July 1959 when the first female Gardaí presented for duty at Pearse and Store Street Garda Stations.

While it was first envisioned that their role would be confined to dealing with the victims of sexual and domestic crime, these women aspired to do more. Their career path may have been windy and full of ups and downs, but it paved the way for other women.

Deputy Commissioner Anne Marie McMahon has the following guiding words to those women contemplating a career with An Garda Síochána.

“My advice would be to go for it. It is a very fulfilling career, there are lots of opportunities to diversify and there is a huge variety of day-to-day roles.”

An Garda Síochána Deputy Commissioner Anne Marie McMahon

“My advice would be to go for it. It is a very fulfilling career, there are lots of opportunities to diversify and there is a huge variety of day-to-day roles. It is not without its testing times but that’s what makes it all the more worthwhile.

“I am passionate about An Garda Síochána and the important role we play in society in terms of keeping people safe and I am honoured and privileged to hold the rank of Deputy Commissioner in an organisation dedicated to serving the people of Ireland.”

Meanwhile Assistant Commissioner Southern Region Eileen Foster says improved representation is to be celebrated.

“The trailblazing previous women at the senior leadership table have instilled the confidence for myself and my female colleagues to know we are experienced, contributing members of the senior leadership team who bring our perspectives in conjunction with that of our male colleagues to ensure a collective all-encompassing view of policing at management level.

“I hope that in my role, I continue the tradition of women inspiring women to believe in themselves.”

While An Garda Síochána is proud to say it ranks above the European average in terms of female representation within police services, there is still more that it wishes to achieve in this area.

Commissioner Harris notes: “Across the board gender balance is improving but there is always progress to be made.”

An Garda Síochána has established its own Women’s Network in recent years, which provides critical opportunities for training, mentoring, collaboration and networking among colleagues.

It continues to encourage more women, and women from diverse backgrounds, to join An Garda Síochána.

It recognises too that being more reflective of the diverse and inclusive society it serves will enhance its ability to provide an effective police service for all people.

W: www.garda.ie

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