The Nordic-Baltic Network of Policewomen was formed 16 years ago. One important task of the network is to arrange conferences on gender equality, at which both problems and successful initiatives are addressed. The presidency of the network is rotated between the five Nordic and three Baltic countries and is currently held by Latvia.
‘The network is particularly important for the Baltic states. We hope that the good examples from the Nordic countries will lead to more policewomen holding leading positions in Baltic law enforcement,’ says Inese Volosevica, currently chair of the network and head of the Latvian State Police International Department.
Last October, the network, which consists of female representatives from the national police authorities, police academies and police unions in the member states, received funding from the Nordic Gender Equality Fund. The events arranged within the framework of a one-year project include a seminar in Riga 31 May–1 June on gender equality in the Nordic and Baltic police forces. There will be a particular focus on the working conditions and the possibility to combine a career with family life.
‘In the Baltic states, it is difficult for women to combine family life with a career as a policewoman. In almost all families, the woman is in charge of the children and other family matters. After a divorce, 99 per cent of the children live with their mothers and see their fathers only on weekends and during school breaks – if the dad wants to. This makes it difficult for women to work evenings, nights and early mornings,’ says Inese Volosevica, who is in charge of the conference.
What are the main weaknesses in the member countries when it comes to gender equality in law enforcement?
‘One problem is that there are no written action plans for gender equality activities in the Baltic countries. A clear strategy would help put the gender equality issue higher on the agenda of policy makers, for example with regard to the recruitment of management staff. In Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, just over 40 per cent of all police workers are women. It is not uncommon for female police officers to be ahead of their male colleagues when it comes to education. Nevertheless, few women hold high management positions. Instead, they tend to work mainly with investigations and other office work at lower organisational levels. Since few women hold leading positions, they also have lower salaries than their male counterparts.’
What are the main differences in the area of gender equality within the network?
‘The Nordic countries have made more progress in establishing gender equality strategies aimed to increase the share of female leaders in the police. The network can help the Baltic countries learn how such strategies should be designed and implemented. In the Nordic countries, it is also common with flexible working hours, which makes it easier for example to pick up one’s kids after school. Another difference is that in the Baltic countries, we don’t have gender quotas mandating for example that a department must have five male and five female police officers.’
What is the best way to achieve gender equality in law enforcement?
‘To establish gender equality strategies. And to encourage female police officers to step up actively pursue the management positions.’