2018 marks 100 years since Wiltshire Police employed its first ever female police officer.
It also marks the first year that the force has hosted the regional ‘Women in Leadership’ conference.
The event, which is open to officers, staff and volunteers of all ranks and roles within police forces across the south west region, is an annual event hosted by a different police force each year.
Chief Constable Kier Pritchard said: “2018 is a really significant year for women, especially here at Wiltshire Police, which makes it the perfect year to host this regional conference.
“We currently have so many inspirational women in pivotal roles in policing and it is something that should be celebrated. This conference will aim to bring together both women and men in all roles and ranks from forces across the south west, to help inspire, celebrate and empower, as well as look ahead to some of the challenges we may face in the years to come.
“It’s fascinating looking back into the archives of Wiltshire Police and seeing just how far we have come since Florence White was appointed in the Salisbury City Force 100 years ago.”
Detective Superintendent Deb Smith, chair of the organising committee and head of public protection, said: “We are honoured to be hosting the conference in what is quickly becoming known as ‘the year of the woman’.
“It’s a fantastic opportunity for women and men in policing to come together and hopefully leave feeling inspired – there are no longer barriers to young women considering joining the police. Times have changed so much and it is definitely cause for celebration.”
Superintendent Sarah Robbins said: “I’ve grown up with Wiltshire Police, having joined when I was 19. As well as having good influences at home, I have also been incredibly lucky to meet some amazing people at work; male and female. They have helped shape who I have become, which has included encouraging me to progress through the ranks. I never would have become a Detective, and certainly wouldn’t have been promoted, without this support. I have encountered some of the rufty tuftiest male colleagues who are the most caring and considerate people you could ever meet. And the best Sergeant I ever had, who at times was also the scariest, was a woman. Gender, when it comes to being a great police officer, is immaterial in many ways.
“I’ve been asked whether I have ever faced any challenges in policing because I’m a woman. Of course I have faced challenges, it is a really challenging job, but I can’t say for sure that anything has ever happened to me just because I am a woman. Whatever job you do you will encounter challenge, that’s life, but any bad experience I have had pales into insignificance compared to the vast number of great moments, and great colleagues, I have had.
“We have come such a long way in the past 10 years towards becoming a fully inclusive employer. I think when it comes to gender, we should be really proud of where we are. We do need to remember that not everyone wants traditional career progression, and I know many women who do not chose it because they do not want it. What we need to ensure is that women have choice and opportunity.”