Metropolitan Police boss Cressida Dick has paid tribute to the first women police officers in the force but acknowledges they still have a “long way to go” to achieve gender equality.
Thousands of serving and retired officers and staff gathered at Westminster Abbey for a special service on Friday, marking 100 years of women police officers in the Met.
Current figures show that only 27% of officers in Britain’s largest force are women.
Ms Dick told the Press Association: “The Met has changed so much, and now we have women in every role and every rank, and we’re celebrating not just those early pioneers but all women in between who have achieved so much.
“Those women, as they say, upon whose shoulders we stand.
“The current generation, we wouldn’t be where we are today without them.”
The commissioner became the first woman to hold the most senior post in British policing in 2017.
On how the profession has changed for women, Ms Dick said: “It’s changed hugely, I’ve been a police officer since 1983 and there are so many more women.”
“In the last 15 years, every single role has genuinely been open to women. Specialisms, ranks, we’ve got women doing anything and everything.
“When I joined, it tended to be one on this team, one on that team, and certain things weren’t open to women at all.
“I loved it then and I love it now but it is utterly different.”
Asked about if she considers herself a role model, Ms Dick said: “If people do look at somebody like me and think, ‘well, if she can do it, I can do it, I feel a bit different and she looks a bit different, so I might have a go’ – that’s brilliant, that’s great.”
Ms Dick spearheaded a campaign at the end of last year to encourage more women to join the force and end male domination in senior ranks.
The campaign, Strong, is its first recruitment drive targeting women, aiming to tackle the known barriers for women and challenge gender stereotypes.
“Already about a third of the Met is women but I think it could be much more and in particular amongst police officers, it’s only 27% at the moment. I don’t understand why, in the future, it wouldn’t be 50%,” she said.
“We’ve got a long way to go, we’re working really hard to inspire women to join us in a variety of different ways.
“But also to make the workplace an even better place for men and women to be.”
The thanksgiving event at Westminster Abbey marked a service that took place a century ago, for officers who had lost their lives in the Great War, which was the first time a group of female officers appeared in uniform.
Earlier on Friday, 12 serving officers recreated one the earliest photos taken of women in the Met police from 1919.
Wearing replica uniforms designed by the head seamstress of the Met’s uniform section, they posed on Westminster’s Clive Steps to mirror the original image.