Erica Silwood and Michelle Fyfe

on Monday, 21 May 2012. Posted in Advancement of Women in the Workplace Award (AWWA)

Erica Silwood and Michelle Fyfe

Erica Silwood is Acting Senior Sergeant in the Western Australian Police and Michelle Fyfe is a Commander in the Western Australian Police.  Together, they are responsible for the establishment of the Western Australian Police Executive Committee for Women (ECW). It has long been recognised by WA Police that there is a distinct lack of female representation in all levels of management. With the growing complexities of Policing it was decided by Fyfe and Silwood that the previous work completed by the Women’s Advisory Network had laid the foundations for women in the agency, however this would now be expanded upon with the implementation of strategic initiatives to increase the advancement of women in policing.

On the 19th of June 2009 the appointment of the Executive Committee for Women heralded in a new era for women in WA Police. The concept  of a committee that comprised of senior management who all held positions of influence in the agency seemed to be the only successful way forward in order to make real and sustainable change.

After researching current trends and initiatives that are ongoing by other private and public sector businesses, it was recognised that the establishment of a committee such as this was industry best practise. Fyfe and Silwood approached the Executive Director of WAPOL in order to gain senior management support for the project. This support was imperative in order to ensure the success of the ECW. Support and approval from the Commissioners Executive Team was provided. The ECW was immediately established and membership was made up by a number of sworn and unsworn staff from the executive and senior management. Current priorities of the committee include the implementation of a WAPOL Women in Leadership Strategy, the establishment of an internal secondment program for female staff enhancing their personal development and mentoring for female officers for the next round of promotion.

Commander Fyfe explained the work of the ECW in an internal media release “this is no longer about us addressing individual workplace or management issues, there are clear policies in place for that. It’s about making changes to our professional development programs, creating learning opportunities so that women can build their capacity to take on senior leadership roles in WA Police.”

The implementation of a committee such as this is already a win for women in the agency. It is the first time that the issue of women and leadership and career development is being tackled from a strategic level. It is also the first time such an influential group has formed together in order to collaboratively look at women and leadership within the Western Australian Police (WAPOL).  Each committee member is now in the process of mentoring an appropriate person. In some instances committee members have more than one female employee to mentor. This is a unique situation as it gives Constables access to some very senior staff that they would normally have no contact with.

The very first initiative that was tabled by the committee was the formulation of a WAPOL Women in Leadership Strategy. The document sets out a number of strategies that encourage and support initiatives that enable women to achieve high level management roles and also hold decision making positions in the agency. This will contribute to the very important cultural change that needs to occur in order to achieve success. Further to this, the vision of the strategy is “to strengthen the position of women in policing - their number, their professional development, their progress to positions of leadership and their contribution to the future of the Western Australian Police”.

Fyfe and Silwood have been instrumental in researching and assisting in the formulation of this document and working closely with members of the Strategy and Performance unit in order to produce something that is contemporary and aligns with the core business of WA Police. The launch of the WA Police Women in Leadership strategy will occur in early 2010.

There are now 15 female Police Officers who have been identified as potential leaders and approached by committee members who want to assist them in their quest for promotion. Without the formulation of the committee this would never have happened. Many of these officers would not have applied for promotion without the support of their new mentor. The real results will be measured if these officers are successful in gaining promotion. It must be acknowledged that this initiative has instilled new confidence in the selected officers and this already has had a positive impact for the WA Police.

The impending launch of the WAPOL Women in Leadership Strategy will have an overarching affect on all employees. It will make managers accountable for their actions as they will now be required to report on what they are doing in order to advance women within the agency. This will take some time to measure however the strategy will run for a three year term.

Thank you note from Acting Senior Sergeant Silwood and Commander Fyfe

"Commander Michelle Fyfe and I would like to thank the Australian Centre for Leadership for Women (CLW)  for the opportunity to apply for and subsequently receive an Advancement of Women in the Workplace Award. With the ongoing issues that contribute to a lack of women in leadership positions across many industries  it is fabulous to have an arena  at the national level to share information to address gender disparity in senior management.  We are pleased to form a partnership with the CLW and are appreciative of the opportunity to showcase what is being done within WA Police. Once again Commander Fyfe and I are honoured to receive recognition for our efforts and we hope that this will positively contribute to women in other agencies as well as the WA Police. "