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International Women's Day: Guest blog from the FPA/p> 8 Mar, 2021

British Transport
Police Federation
Mar 8, 2021

International Women's Day: Guest blog from the FPA

Our thanks to Superintendent Alison Evans, Force Lead for Drones and Disruption and Secretary of the Female Police Association, for writing the first in a series of guest blogs aimed at highlighting the work of BTP's support associations.

As we celebrate International Women's Day today, I am delighted to have been asked to write a guest blog by the Federation, on behalf of the Female Police Association.

Formed in April 2016, the Association now has over 230 members, both female and male. It is continuing to grow, and we are always supportive of new individuals to join! In addition to informing policy and setting strategic objectives, the FPA plan events throughout each year. These events can highlight wellbeing issues, individual and force-wide achievements and showcase the range of activities women undertake within BTP.

International Women's Day is an opportunity where the FPA can focus on celebrating the excellent work that the women and men of BTP have done and continue to do.

Previously, this has included an Awards Ceremony and last year, we held a multi- agency open day at Blundell Street. We invited (when we still could) members of our sister organisations including: women's groups from TfL, Network Rail and the Department of Transport, and organisations such as Women in Rail and Women in Transport to visit Blundell Street.

Here they met with officers and staff from the specialist operations departments; dog handlers, Working At Heights Team members, firearms officers and more. Staff and visitors were able to discuss their roles and responsibilities, this was a huge success and we had lots of positive feedback and admiration for our staff from the other organisations. This year, despite the inevitable limitations, we believe it is important to demonstrate the achievements that female officers and staff are continuing to make. We are showcasing a virtual timeline, which will demonstrate and highlight the geographical spread and role range of women within our organisation.

The FPA has also organised other events: Wellbeing Days across the force including focussing on "unmentionable" issues, for example the menopause, prostate and breast cancer and men's mental health. In November 2017 we supported the force in celebrating 100 years of women in BTP.

To explain a little more about us and our roles: I am the Secretary of the Female Police Association and the Chair is C/I Melissa Cunningham. We undertake our FPA activities in addition to our full-time roles. I am the Force Lead for Drones and Disruption, Melissa is an operational Chief Inspector on B Division. We have Divisional representatives on all of the Divisions who support their colleagues with issues affecting women and men within the organisation.

The FPA have created a Maternity Network. This is run by Inspector Ritu Sharma and consists of maternity buddies; these are individuals who support staff who are pregnant or on maternity leave. They recently held their first virtual coffee morning, providing a great networking event for the Maternity Buddies.

Women inevitably experience the Menopause and although this primarily affects the older members of the workforce, it can lead to challenges and lifestyle changes at any age. We have created a Menopause Network with a Working Group which has created policy and guidelines, a humorous and supportive WhatsApp Group and Menopause Buddies.

In response to some officers who have struggled to complete the annual fitness test, we have a supportive WhatsApp group, for both women and men, who benefit from a little encouragement and motivation. This consists of a variety of colleagues, many often giving up their time to meet and practice the fitness test with others. We have negotiated with the force to increase training opportunities and test circumstances. This group was created in Jan 2018 and has been operationally successful - approximately 50 female officers have been taken off Temporary Duty Restriction and returned to front line duties due to the support of the JRFT Group.

The FPA are aware of, and listen, to the concerns of women within BTP. We know that outside of work, many women still maintain the majority of their home and family-caring responsibilities; this means they are more likely to request flexible working. Of course, the world of work has changed hugely over the past year and the force has adapted well. We are keen to work with BTP to strengthen the integration of flexible working patterns in order for positive outcomes for individuals and the force. Particularly as we are emerging from lockdown, we may see an increase in flexible working pattern requests, our approach has always been to balance the individual need with the operational requirement of a 24/7 police force and we have worked with supervisors and those returning to work to facilitate this equitably.

Women are also concerned about their ability to professionally develop and progress - in a survey of female officers and staff, 32% felt that BTP's development processes were unfair and 41% thought that they were not transparent. Sadly, 62% of officers felt that other people had already been earmarked for jobs they were interested in and that discouraged them from applying. In response to this, we continue to work with HR and Talent Management, aiming to increase the transparency of these processes. An achievement for us was to successfully persuade the force to have a female officer on promotion boards, this provided a positive impact for officers; so candidates can see "someone who looks like them" and held seminars on unconscious bias and Imposter Syndrome to improve candidates' opportunities for success.

Melissa and I both believe in being role models for women working in BTP and therefore we are both delighted to welcome Chief Constable Lucy D'Orsi to the organisation as a very visible role model. We look forward to working with her to improve the representation of women within the force. Role models exist at all levels of the organisation and I was delighted to hear from T/CI Jayne Lewis from C Division who told me about an inspiring colleague of hers who has worked for BTP for over 30 years. Vicky Palin is the clerical officer at Crewe and trained Jayne when she joined the force as police staff. Jayne confirms that Vicky is a highly valued and vital member of the team at Crewe and has been described as the lynch pin coordinating the station and its staff. As a previous OIC, I think we all know that it is not the senior officer who runs a police post, it is definitely the clerical officer - so thank you to Vicky for her years of service and her commitment. I too, joined BTP as police staff before moving over to the "dark side" and becoming an officer so good to hear that others, like Jayne, have also done so.

The FPA is not just a campaigning and support organisation - in October 2018 we took part in a VERY muddy MUD RUN (never again!) and members have also taken part in the Big Rail Diversity Challenge.

That being said, we are here as a support network, if you need to speak to us, if you are interested in joining, or if you wish to give some ideas for us to discuss then please contact us at: