PEARL JACOBS, Fordham University


This study examines a group of women employed in a male-dominated occupation, police work. It focuses on role conflict perceived and reported by the female police officer. The subject of this study is how the conflict is defined (if at all), how the conflict develops and how it is handled. Two different theoretical approaches to roles, focussing on role conflict were necessary in order to study policewomen. The two theoretical approaches were the structural approach and the interactionist approach. Central to this study was the question of whether one or both of the theoretical approaches aids in describing the role situations and conflict reported by these women. The data for this study was obtained from indepth interviews conducted with thirty female police officers employed by the New York City Police Department. The study found that women receive passive acceptance from the men. This type of acceptance generates two reactions from the women. Both reactions represent a woman's attempt to limit role conflict. The first reaction is to remain unconcerned with the male officer's constant attempt to prove his dominance. These women (both married and single women are included in this group), don't feel the need to constantly prove themselves to the policemen. They explain that the only person they have to prove themselves to is themselves. Thus, they are satisfied and experience little role conflict. The men are satisfied because these women are not attempting to compete with them. The second reaction includes women who felt the need to prove themselves as capable as the men not better than the men. These women do not want to compete with the men. They want to maintain their identity as women, performing a particular job. These women are also adopting a traditional female attitude and, therefore, they experience minimal role conflict. Female officers don't want to lose their feminine identity. Thus, although women have begun entering male-dominated occupations their success rate appears to be dependent upon the degree to which they are willing to relinquish traditional female attitudes and adopt traditional male attitudes.

Subject Area


Recommended Citation

JACOBS, PEARL, "WOMEN IN POLICE WORK: A STUDY OF ROLE CONFLICT" (1983). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI8323531.