Aneela Khalil-Khan is a Detective Chief Inspector with South Yorkshire Police, and joined the force in 2003. She is Vice-Secretary of the South Yorkshire Police Race, Inclusion & Equity Association, and a member of the force’s Women’s Network.

Aneela presented at our Women in Policing Conference on driving inclusion and supporting minority women in policing – a subject she is deeply passionate about due to her personal experiences. This is available to watch above, with a summary below.

DCI Khalil Khan was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship in 2022, and undertook research in America between May and August 2023, to complete her study on ‘How does community engagement influence the recruitment, retention, and progression of minority female officers?’ (Police Insight).

Having faced these challenges daily, she actively supports both females and males in the policing environment. Her research, conducted in the United States, emphasises the importance of women, particularly women of colour and other minority groups, in policing and aims to promote their progress and retention in this critical field.

Women in Policing: Importance and Current Statistics

Women in policing are crucial for creating a diverse setup that accurately represents our communities. In England and Wales, out of over 147,000 police officers, 35% are women, the highest proportion since 2010. However, only 6% of these are from minority backgrounds, highlighting the need for more progress (GOV.UK)​​ (GOV.UK). Comparatively, in the U.S., women make up 12% of law enforcement officers, with minorities also representing 12%. These figures, though low, show that both countries face similar challenges in achieving gender and racial diversity in policing (GOV.UK)​.

Challenges Faced by Women in Policing

Aneela’s research identified several key concerns for women in policing:

  1. Male-Dominated Environment: Policing has historically been a male-dominated field, which can be daunting for women, especially those aspiring to senior positions.
  2. Self-Doubt and Imposter Syndrome: Many women feel they are not good enough or ready for promotion, leading to self-doubt and the need to work harder for recognition compared to their male counterparts.
  3. Balancing Roles: Women often juggle childcare and home responsibilities alongside their careers, adding extra pressure.
  4. Societal and Community Acceptance: Society and communities are still not fully accepting of women, particularly minority women, in policing roles.

Imposter Syndrome and Its Impact

Imposter syndrome, the belief of not being good enough despite achievements, affects many women in policing. To tackle this, it’s essential to acknowledge and accept our feelings, share experiences, and celebrate successes. Learning from the U.S., where celebrating achievements is more common, can help improve confidence among female officers in the UK.

The Benefits of a Diverse Workforce

A diverse workforce fosters creativity, innovative ideas, and solutions, helping rebuild trust and confidence within communities. It attracts new recruits, promotes fairness, and enhances the organization’s appeal. Addressing diversity issues is crucial in light of past incidents of violence and misconduct in both the UK and the US.

Supporting Minority Women in Policing

Creating supportive networks, mentoring, and coaching are key to encouraging minority women in policing. The U.S. model of bespoke mentorship for women of colour can be adopted in the UK. Educating ourselves and doing the right thing with integrity is fundamental to these efforts.

Positive Actions and Initiatives

In the U.S., initiatives like the 30 by 30 campaign aim for 30% of women in law enforcement by 2030. Positive action work, such as working with diverse community teams and historically black colleges, has shown success in increasing minority recruits. Differences in parental leave policies between the U.S. and the UK also highlight areas for improvement to retain female officers.

Overcoming Challenges and Promoting Inclusion

Minority women in senior policing roles face similar challenges globally, including misogynistic behaviour and racial comments. Forming supportive networks and alliances, both within and outside their communities, has helped many overcome these obstacles.

Overall, achieving better representation of minority women in senior policing roles requires collective effort and learning from successful initiatives in other countries. By addressing imposter syndrome, fostering supportive networks, and promoting diversity, we can pave the way for a more inclusive and effective policing environment. This mission is not only a professional imperative but also a deeply personal one, as it reflects our commitment to serving and representing our diverse communities.

This was presented at our Supporting Women in Policing Event 2024. For more Police Insights please see our latest event below.

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DCI Aneela Khalil-Khan presented at our Women in Policing Conference. Her research emphasises the importance of women, particularly women of colour and other minority groups, in policing and aims to promote their progress and retention in this critical field.

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