"Just a Bunch of Broads": The Integration Experiences of Four Pioneering Women in the Philadelphia Police Department

Angela Marie Corbo, University of Pennsylvania


One hundred women became police officers of the Philadelphia Police Department in mid-1970s. This was the first time that women held a policing position comparable to men. It was not without a fight. Women pursued legal action to challenge the gender exclusivity of the Philadelphia Police Department. The Court postponed a ruling on the case when the Philadelphia Police Department agreed to conduct a conditional two-year study with 100 female patrol officers. This study compared the performance of 100 policemen and 100 policewomen who entered the Police Academy together. The Philadelphia senior leadership believed that the 100 women would fail; thus preventing the opportunity for future generations of women. This pioneering group of women was under scrutiny but maintained their determination. If the women failed, the Philadelphia Police Department would have established a bona fide reason to remain an all-male organization. Instead, the majority of women successfully performed the essential competencies for patrol work. These women and future generations of women earned a place in the police department. Some male members of the Philadelphia Police Department resented the women's intrusion in the work environment. The research questions focused on the gendered environment of the Philadelphia Police Department and coping strategies the informants used to manage their professional interactions with men. The data is organized through three lenses: the institutional culture of policing, the interpersonal interactions among colleagues, and the informants' intrapersonal coping strategies. The data revealed four summary findings. First, policing continues to be a male-dominated occupation, despite the increased presence of women. The second finding recognizes that the professional stresses of policing often filter into one's personal life. When police officers choose their occupation, they inevitably make a lifestyle commitment. Third, members of a police department with high-power status often marginalize low-power group members of the organization through the in-group/out-group dynamic. This dynamic sustains the presence of competing sub-groups within the organization. Finally, the data revealed the tension created as a result of the prominent heterosexual norms in a mixed-gender work environment. Combined, these findings explore the intricate group and personal dynamics within a complex organization.

Subject Area

Public administration|Social studies education|Womens studies

Recommended Citation

Corbo, Angela Marie, ""Just a Bunch of Broads": The Integration Experiences of Four Pioneering Women in the Philadelphia Police Department" (2004). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3152022.