Michigan State Police Inspector Lisa Rish says the aim is to increase female applicants to one-fifth of its pool by the end of 2022. A lofty goal considering at present only 9% of Michigan State Police officers are women. Why is that?

There are a number of factors contributing to the low numbers of female officers in law enforcement. One of the main obstacles women in the force face are the long and odd hours the job demands. Although society has made strides when it comes to women in the workplace, many women are mothers and therefore caretakers of the family. To be a woman in the workforce means missing birthdays, school sporting events, making meals, and many other crucial tasks that fall upon mothers.

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Another large obstacle facing women in the workplace, and especially in law enforcement, is sexism. Midland Police Chief Nicole Ford says, "There are still a lot of people that don’t believe women belong to law enforcement.” Traditionally, women are more empathetic and are known to be excellent communicators. According to Ford, sometimes the mere presence of a female officer is often enough to diffuse a potentially dangerous situation.

The dwindling number of women in law enforcement, particularly at the state level, is not something unique to Michigan either and is a situation that is resonating across the United States. USA Today claims the number of women in state policing has all but stalled over the last two decades, with a Stateline analysis measuring the number of sworn female state troopers across the U.S. at just 7% as compared to 6% in 2000.

With Michigan being one of only nine states that ban affirmative action, the Michigan State Police must be careful to not give preference to one group--or gender--over another. Instead, the department hopes to recruit more female officers through outreach and job fairs where current female state troopers can be present to share their experiences on the force with potential female recruits.

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