International Women's Day

International Women's Day logo

Since 1977, the 8th of March has been recognised by western society as International Women’s Day (IWD), a worldwide day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. 

This year marks the 40th IWD, with the campaign theme #BeBoldForChange, and we at Police Scotland are immensely proud of the development that has been made in respect of rights for our female officers and support staff.

As recently as the late sixties, there were few female officers in the police service, normally around one per shift. Their duties were different to those of their male counterparts, mainly dealing with incidents involving women and children.

Even after successfully completing the police driving courses, women were only allowed to be in charge of a vehicle if a qualified male was in the car. Furthermore, female officers were not permitted to wear trousers; their uniforms had to be made to measure because there were insufficient officers to warrant having off-the-peg uniforms.

Times have certainly changed for the better. There are more than 40,000 female officers across the UK, and in Scotland alone, women make up around a third of serving officers and new recruits.

In 2015, Police Scotland celebrated 100 years of women in the service, and here we take a look back at some of the key moments in Scottish female policing history.

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  • 1915 to 1918 – Emily Miller joins the City of Glasgow Police and Jean Thomas joins Dundee City Police. 
  • 1924 - Women constables are granted the power of arrest in Scotland. 
  • 1940 - Jean Malloy is promoted to detective sergeant and becomes the first woman in Scotland to gain rank. 
  • 1954 – The first woman is promoted to chief inspector.
  • 1962 - Policewomen attached to the criminal investigation department are recognised as detective constables.
  • 1968 - Policewomen allowed to remain in post after marriage.
  • 1974 – Avril Dempsey and Eleanor Dempster become the first female Mounted Unit Officers in Scotland. 
  • 1976 - Policewomen come to be known as constable, sergeant and so on, rather than WPC or W sergeant. 
  • 1995 - Sandra Hood becomes the first woman in Scotland to hold the rank of chief superintendent.
  • 2006 - Margaret Barr is appointed director of the Scottish Police College at Tulliallan. 
  • 2008 - Norma Graham becomes Scotland’s first female chief constable in Fife.
  • 2012 - Rose Fitzpatrick is appointed as the first female deputy chief constable of Police Scotland.

Deputy Chief Constable Rose Fitzpatrick QPM said, "I am proud that Police Scotland is once again highlighting work going on around the world to encourage gender parity and celebrate International Women's Day, as we have in previous years.

It is so encouraging to see increasing numbers of women joining Police Scotland, both as officers and as staff. Ten years ago, only 19% of our officers were women - now that figure is 29%. This year Positive Action Recruitment Events are taking place around the country to dispel myths about women in policing and the application process and support potential officers to achieve their goals.

"In Police Scotland every rank and role is open to women. We encourage and support each other to learn and develop professionally and personally. And we take pride in being positive role models to women not just in policing, not just in Scotland, but around the world."

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Suzie Mertes of the Scottish Women’s Development Forum added, “In Scotland, there has been tremendous progress made in terms of gender under-representation, particularly in the last decade. However, there is still much to do to ensure that as an organisation we attract, recruit and retain the best female staff that we can, and that everyone is able to reach their full potential to the benefit of the service and the communities we serve.

“Having recently celebrated the 100 Years of Women in Policing you could be mistaken for thinking that an increase in female staff who are able to progress and work in any area of Police Scotland is inevitable, but it is not. The difference has been and will continue to be the positive action and interventions made in Police Scotland, helped by the SWDF, to achieve this.”

Women - and men - can #BeBoldForChange by

  • Challenging bias and inequality
  • Campaigning against violence
  • Celebrating women's achievements
  • Championing women's education and development

More information is available at the International Women's Day website