Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format

Integrated Article


Doctor of Education




Bishop, Pamela


This exploratory case study delved into why many policewomen elect to bypass the promotion process in a large Ontario police service. Although there is research on the number of policewomen at each rank in the Ontario police services and a considerable amount of research about the barriers policewomen face in many parts of the Western world, it is not clear why many abstain from the promotion process. This research asked the question why, and participants provided some insight as to how the situation regarding policewomen’s career promotion could be improved in the future.

Forty-three policewomen participated in this research and they loosely encompassed a cross section of Ontario policewomen throughout the rank structure. Non-commissioned officers (constables, sergeants, and staff sergeants) as well as commissioned officers (inspector and above) participated in this study. Some of the officers involved were from the front-line, while other officers were from specialized units.

This research employed a qualitative design and focused on the participants’ perceptions about putting themselves forward for promotion. Social capital theory (Coleman, 1998; Putnam, 1995a) is used to frame the study, as aspects of social capital are successful in promoting a community-based policing initiative that is now widely accepted across the province. One-on- one interviews were conducted and a modified version of the constant comparative method (CCM) of analysis helped tease out relevant themes from the data. I used an interpretivist lens to determine and analyze the analytical results thematically in the hopes of facilitating relevant organizational change in the future.

Findings from this research study led me to conclude that the biggest obstacles appear to be the organizational culture and the structure of the current promotion process itself. Findings show there is an ineffective structure and limiting culture for many policewomen as well as for some members of other minority groups. I hope that some of the suggestions for change will be helpful to the organization, which they can then utilize to improve the process for everyone in the Ontario police service in the future.

Summary for Lay Audience

This study looked at why few policewomen enter the promotion process in a large Ontario Police Service. There are currently data that show the percentages of policewomen in each rank although there is very little research that looks at what the barriers are, and why policewomen abstain from entering the promotion process in the first place.

Forty-three policewomen of different ranks participated in voluntary interviews. The main points from each interview were compared, and similar ideas were put into categories or themes. The researcher looked at the common themes, and interpreted the results.

The results showed that the biggest obstacles for policewomen in this study were the organizations culture, and the promotion process itself. Some potential suggestions were provided to assist the organization in improving and providing a more inclusive process in the future.