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Preference for Group-based Social Hierarchy and the Reluctance to Accept Women as Equals in Law Enforcement

Journal Title Journal of Public Administration Research & Theory
Published Date February 07, 2024
Research Type


While many public organizations have made notable strides to improve the representation of women at all ranks, women remain severely underrepresented in law enforcement organizations. Research shows that a critical barrier to women’s integration into law enforcement is the common perception among policemen that women are unsuited for police work. This study draws on Social Dominance Theory to provide a better understanding of the values and beliefs underlying policemen’s negative perceptions. Using survey data and Ordinary Least Squares Regression analyses, we examine the association between Social Dominance Orientation (SDO), an individual difference variable that captures preference for group-based social hierarchy, and officers’ assessment of women’s suitability for law enforcement. In line with existing evidence, our analyses show that compared to policewomen, policemen provide a significantly more negative assessment of women’s suitability for law enforcement. We also find that higher SDO officers report more negative assessments of women in law enforcement, and officers’ diversity value partially mediates this relationship. These novel findings suggest that officers who desire to protect existing power dynamics are more likely to resist organizational diversity efforts and have more negative views about women’s suitability for law enforcement.