Less than half of recently hired police officers in West Midlands are female, according to new figures.
As part of a 2019 election manifesto pledge, the Government promised an uplift of 20,000 new police officers by March 2023 – alongside a campaign to improve gender and ethnic diversity in the force.
Data from the Home Office shows that female recruits made up just 43% of the 2,514 police officers hired by West Midlands Police between April 2020 – when gender breakdowns of new officers were first recorded nationally – and March this year.
This is higher than across England and Wales as a whole, where 42% of new police recruits were female.
The ratio of female to male police officers at West Midlands Police has risen from 32% in March 2019 to 35% this year, but critics argue the uplift has not gone far enough to make police forces representative of their communities.
Jemima Olchawski, chief executive of the Fawcett Society, a charity campaigning for gender equality, said that trust in the police had been "shaken" by a "culture of misogyny" in certain forces.
She said: "These stats represent some welcome progress but to get to equality we need more women entering the force – and that means recognising there is a real problem with sexism and taking meaningful action to stamp it out."
Women made up at least half of new recruits in just three forces – Lancashire, Great Manchester, and Derbyshire.
By contrast, Wiltshire Police recruited the fewest female officers, at just 33%.
The figures are a headcount of the number of people hired – female officers are also more likely to work part-time, meaning that the number of female police officers on the streets is likely to be lower than these numbers suggest.
Separate snapshot data from the Government’s Gender Pay Gap Service shows that across all jobs at West Midlands Police, women were earning 12% less than their male counterparts as of March 31 2021 – the latest figures available.
Rick Muir, director of the Police Foundation, a policing think tank, said: "The number of female police officers has gradually been increasing over the past two decades, but there's still a long way to go."
Speaking about the uplift, he said the Government has focused on "quantity over composition" in order to hit its manifesto target – not giving enough focus on the diversity of new recruits to the police force.
Mr Muir added that it is too early to tell whether recent policing scandals, and declining trust in police forces, will put a dent in the number of women signing up.
A total of 13,576 extra officers have joined police ranks across England and Wales since November 2019, including 1,017 in West Midlands.
A spokesperson for the Home Office called it a "once in a generation opportunity to make the police more representative of the community they serve".
They continued: “The police officer workforce is more diverse than it has ever been. However, we are aware that there is more work to be done, which is why the Government continues to work closely with police forces to ensure their workforces are representative.”