An examination of the effects of tokenism for female command officers in law enforcement

by Phelps, Penny M., Ph.D., CAPELLA UNIVERSITY, 2016, 130 pages; 10239943


Women remain underrepresented in law enforcement. The theory of tokenism suggests members of the dominant group, male police officers, will engage in a variety of behaviors that restrict the mobility of the tokens within the group. Kanter (1977) identified three perceptual tendencies, visibility, assimilation, and polarization that restricted the mobility of token women. The restriction of upward mobility for women in law enforcement is illustrated in the raw numbers. Women represent less than 2% of the police chiefs in the United States (Johnson, 2013). The raw numbers suggest that the female officers experience visibility, assimilation, and polarization. Blalock’s (1967) intrusiveness theory suggests that the perceived attempt by tokens to reject the constraints of their token status and achieve the privileges and power of the dominant group will result in the tokens experiencing increased negative effects of tokenism. If Blalock’s postulate holds true, women entering the command rank structure in law enforcement should experience increased negative effects of tokenism. This research found that female police officers did experience visibility, assimilation, and polarization. However, there were not statistically significant differences between non-ranking female police officers and female police officers who have achieved command rank when comparing the effects of tokenism (visibility, assimilation, and polarization). The results of this research supported Kanter’s (1977) theory of tokenism, but offered a divergent viewpoint to Blalock’s (1967) theory of intrusiveness.

AdviserCyd Strickland
Source TypeDissertation
SubjectsWomen's studies; Management; Organization theory; Organizational behavior
Publication Number10239943

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