Guest blog by Marion E. Gold
Author of Top Cops: Profiles of Women in Command
Watch her interview on The Woman's Connection YouTube Vlog
I'm not a law enforcement officer, so readers may wonder why I chose policing as a book topic. Carrying the dubious title of “The Company Feminist,” I broke—more like crashed—through the glass ceiling and landed in a lush corner office, complete with a mahogany desk, seat on the executive board, and a variety of other perks. I hired women into professional jobs, mentored them, and was even advised that onc day some man might sue the company and me for reverse discrimination.
It was a good fight, but a lonely one. Like the few other women in other companies who had reached senior executive positions, I was wounded by the flying shards of glass. I grew weary of climbing the same hill every day, and contending with the overt, but more often subtle discrimination levied at me and not only from the men. Even some of the younger women wondered why I didn’t just become “one of the guys.” Why did I care if they used gender slurs during meetings? Why did I care if women had to be “perfect” while some of the men were mediocre? Sound familiar?
I finally walked away from that corner office—but not to hide in some other corner. I decided to talk about it, write about it, and work from the “outside” to make a difference for women and minorities in the workplace. What better way to make my point than by writing about women who blasted through one of the five remaining professions virtually dominated by male stereotypes? I believe with all my heart that all career doors must be open to women—a career in policing is one of their options. More than that, women who choose law enforcement as a career must know that they will be mentored by the women already on the force, will be free from harassment, and will have equal opportunity with men to advance into command positions. Top Cops: Profiles of Women in Command is this feminists way of shining a light on just a few of an elite group of women in policing whose persistence and dedication place them among the trailblazers in law enforcement. They are not only mentors for women in law enforcement — they are examples for all women of how skill, dedication, and a much-needed sense of humor can succeed in breaking through a male-dominated “blue wall” in order to achieve command positions. Who are the women who have attained command positions? They are tall, short, sturdy, and petite. They are blond, brunette, redheaded, and gray-haired. They are from varied ethnic and racial backgrounds. There is no physical stereotype. But they do share some characteristics. Clarissa Pinkola Estes is a psychoanalyst and a storyteller. She wrote a book titled “Women Who Run With The Wolves.” Estes says that as women have attempted to fit into society’s rigid roles, they have allowed themselves to become over- domesticated, fearful, uncreative, and trapped. She also says that within every woman there is a wild and natural creature, a powerful force, filled with good instincts, passionate creativity, and ageless knowing. Estes calls her a “Wild Woman.” I CALL HER A LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICER. In the interviews I conducted to write Top Cops, and in the many women officers I met and spoke to while writing the book, I saw those good instincts. I saw their passionate creativity and ageless knowing. Each of the women I spoke to showed an overwhelming sense of maintaining their identities—as strong, determined women who did not choose to succeed by being “one of the boys,” and who believe strongly in individual responsibility. They see the world as it is, not as they wish it were. But at the same time, each has a clear focus on how it should be, and a truly burning desire to make a difference — one step at a time — and to make policing better — for themselves, for society—and sfor the women who will follow in their footsteps.
They were not afraid to fail — and all were eager to try something new. ALL OF THE
WOMEN I INTERVIEWED ALSO MADE A POINT OF SAYING THEY MAINTAINED THEIR FEMININTY — that was very important to them. Whether it was keeping their hair long, their fingernails polished, or ho\v they carried themselves. They felt no need to “swagger like the men — as one put it; or “drink with the guys” or “cuss” — as another said.
All of the women in Top Cops dared to dream — at first about becoming an officer, and later about being in command. This type of spirit, this courage, is evident in every one of the women I interviewed. They did not \wake up one morning and decide to take a leading role in the fight for equal rights in the \workforce. That role was foisted upon them by an unenlightened society, and by an occupation still clearly identified with masculine stereotypes. But each and every one of these wonderful women — these wonderful law enforcement officers — accepted the challenge, and encourage others to do the same! Is it easy? No. Is it worth it? Yes. In the words of Marian Wright Edelman: “If you don’t like the way the world is, you change it. You have an obligation to change it. You just do it one step at a time.”