Women in the police department: The impact of being a "token" in a male-dominated organization
Pierino, Kathleen R.
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This research tests hypotheses about sexual harassment of female police officers, and examines the impact of harassment on their psychological well being. The design is comparative: policewomen are compared to policemen and a control group of women who are not police officers. The sample of officers for this study consists of randomly selected full-time male (n=70) and female (n=45) police officers between the ages of 28 and 55 employed in a mid-sized urban police department. This department employed 837 full time sworn officers at the time of this study; 675 of the officers are male and 162 are female. Although females constitute less than 20 % of the department, 32% of the sample in this study are females. The control group consists of 126 females aged 35 to 64 randomly selected from the New York State Department of Motor Vehicle records. The controls were part of a breast cancer study conducted at a large state university. Differences between the three groups (policewomen, men, and controls) were examined using regression analysis to examine responses to a survey instrument. Follow-up interviews with the policewomen provided qualitative data relevant to episodes of harassment in the policewoman sample. The results indicate that policewomen are more likely to be sexually harassed and are hardier than the control group of women. Sexual harassment increases depression, however, hardiness and being married decreases depression. When the policewomen and policemen were compared, there was no difference on the GSI (Global Severity Index of Distress). The higher the perceived social support reported by both groups, the lower the GSI. Higher scores on the Life Events scale led to higher GSI scores. Although perceived social support does not buffer the effects of stressful life events on distress for men, it does buffer these effects for women. Lastly, hardiness does not buffer the effects of stressful life events for policewomen or policemen.