Date of Award

Spring 5-2014

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Criminal Justice

Committee Chair

Alan Thompson

Committee Chair Department

Criminal Justice

Committee Member 2

Lisa Nored

Committee Member 2 Department

Criminal Justice

Committee Member 3

Richard Mohn

Committee Member 3 Department

Educational Studies and Research

Committee Member 4

Wes Johnson

Committee Member 4 Department

Criminal Justice


After struggling for decades for an equal status, it appears that female law enforcement officers in general have overcome the obstacles that initially kept them away from the job. Now, it is not uncommon to see a woman working as a patrol officer or criminal investigator. It took a shift in attitude over time and government intervention for this evolution to occur. Male officers were resistant, because the presence of women was considered a threat to their boys’ club that they so cherished. But, eventually, they have come to accept the role of women in policing.

Unfortunately, another dilemma surfaced for female officers as they attempted to move up in the ranks of their organizations. Many found barriers in place, which kept them from obtaining leadership positions. A limited number of women have overcome these obstacles and have earned the highest positions available at their departments.

The purpose of the following study is to examine the experiences of this elite group of female leaders in law enforcement in order to understand what circumstances and decisions allowed them to make it into the upper ranks. To do this, the researcher assessed the perceptions and experiences of both ranked and subordinate female officers of the National Association of Women Law Enforcement Executives (NAWLEE).

Identifying the perceived and tangible obstacles of the promotions process and documenting the choices made to overcome these is vitally important not just for retention and recruitment purposes, but also to ensure that top-ranked female officers will not be underrepresented in the future.