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It’s International Women’s Day (IWD) today (Wednesday 8 March) and this year’s theme #EmbraceEquity seeks to get the world talking about why equal opportunities aren't enough. People start from different places, so true inclusion and belonging require equitable action.
Speaking ahead of the annual International Women’s Day conference hosted by Essex Police and our blue light colleagues from Essex County Fire and Rescue Service, East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust and the Office of the Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner for Essex, Chief Constable BJ Harrington said:
“This year’s theme, #EmbraceEquity, is incredibly important to me and to our force. We strive to celebrate and embrace diversity.
“It is so important that we gain and maintain the trust and confidence of the communities we work with and on behalf of.
“This means ensuring that our workforce is representative of these communities. For this to happen, we must, and do, welcome the great breadth of ideas, opinions and problem-solving approaches which all our police officers and staff bring to the job through their varied backgrounds, their life experiences and their cognitive diversity.
“And I am proud to say that, currently, nearly half of our officers and staff, 49%, are women, who bring their own unique perspectives to policing.
“We’re so lucky to benefit from the knowledge and skills of brilliant women across the force in all roles and at all ranks and levels who are paving the way for others to continue doing so in the future.
“Essex Police tries to ensure that all our officers and staff can be their very best selves at work so they can help people, keep them safe and catch criminals to keep our communities safe from harm.”
Assistant Chief Constable Rachel Nolan has been with Essex Police since 1998 and is currently the highest-ranking female officer as well as the force lead for Women’s Leadership and Development Forum, a support group for all female officers and staff.
Opening the event via Teams, ACC Nolan discusses why these events are an integral part of continuing the mission in ensuring women’s voices are both heard, understood and their actions are recognised within Policing and beyond:
“We celebrate International Women’s Day to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women but it’s not just about celebration, it’s about a day which marks a call to action for gender parity.
"I think it’s really important to reiterate that International Women’s Day is not about the fall of men. Everyone can play a role in forging gender parity, and I am so fortunate to work with some wonderful male colleagues who feel just as strongly about this.
"During the last few years (in particular) women’s voices have been really making a difference.
"In the “MeToo” movement, we spoke about sexual abuse, harassment, and the rape culture. Moving on to the more current VAWG (Violence against women and girls) which is a framework to protect women and girls.
“Our culture is shifting, the movement is tangible and it’s an exciting time for women and their voices. Although we have a way to go in the shape of cultures, behaviours and opinions - the future of what we all envisage is one that has gone from obscure to one that is distinct – we can almost touch it.
"Working together, we can create a seismic wave to create a place where women and girls can reach their full potential.”
Chief Superintendent Jenny Barnett, who transferred from the Metropolitan Police in 2021, speaks out about this much needed day:
“True inclusion isn’t just about equal opportunities but is about all of us having a sense of belonging and feeling we can bring our authentic selves to work.
“That’s what we are aiming for in Essex Police and I am proud to be in that journey with the Force, and the Multi-Ethnic Support Association.”
We also interviewed women in various roles across the force to see how they feel about International Women’s Day, their contribution to Essex Police and how they #EmbraceEquity every day.
For more than 18 years, Detective Superintendent Bonnie Moore has been solving crimes. As the force lead for burglary and robbery and lead for investigations in the south of the county, she is “inspired by everybody working in policing” and is “really proud”, especially when her colleagues pull together and respond to difficult situations.
Speaking about the day, Bonnie said: “International Women’s Day is an opportunity to celebrate genuine achievements and incredible people doing amazing things every day - they just happen to be women.
“I have always had excellent support from my peers and other colleagues. I have looked at women around me, across all ranks and roles, and they have helped me to realise that most blockers can be unpicked.”
Working mum and Special Inspector Samantha Wright is the first volunteer police officer to be qualified in understanding a HGVs driver’s cab information to make sure they’re operating within the law, which comes in handy with her role as a volunteer Roads Policing Officer and Road Crime Operational Manager. Samantha has been serving since 2010, and, on top of this, she volunteers her time in Southend as an Inspector, managing a team of 32, and works full-time as a Road Crime Operational Manager with us.
Breaking the myths around women in policing, Samantha said:
“Women can be specialists in any area of policing. There are no barriers, only those we create ourselves.
“I am an executive member of the Women’s Leadership Development Forum, which has been key to my personnel development and mentoring. I cannot emphasise how important it is to reach out to the many different support networks we have within the force, who are all striving to achieve a better work/life balance for us all.”
In our new approach to tackle high harm domestic abuse perpetrators, Detective Sergeant Hayley Lambert and the county’s north Domestic Abuse Problem Solving Team work with perpetrators and partners, such as The Change Project, a local domestic abuse charity, to ensure their risk is managed and that they have access to the right support and rehabilitation programmes. Hayley and her team also work alongside Next Chapter, a support service for victims of domestic abuse, to provide safeguarding and to support them every step of the way.
As a result of DS Lambert's work, she’s been nominated as an ‘inspirational woman’ by key partners in Essex. She said:
“As a police officer, mother, wife, sister and daughter, I am so proud to be leading a team who focus on tackling the most dangerous perpetrators whilst supporting the most vulnerable victims within our community.”
Often this awareness day is seen as a gimmick or a tick-boxing exercise. But here at Essex Police, we use it as an excuse to celebrate women we’re proud of and aspire to be and encourage those to join us in honouring and recognising influential women all year round.
So, what will you be doing to #EmbraceEquity for yourself and those around you?
Why not start your journey with Essex Police today?
At Essex Police, we value difference, and know that we’re strongest when we all work together.
Our officers have different life experiences, different skills and represent communities from across our county.
We’re here for you and your loved ones in times of emergency, and we’re always looking for new people to join us.
If you think you could protect and serve the people of Essex, why not see if you Fit the bill? Visit our police officer career page to find out more.