Across Britain, the number of female police officers is on the rise, but women still only constitute about 30% of the UK police force. Pauline Clare, Britain’s first female Chief Constable shares the life lessons she has learned on her journey to one of the most important jobs in the country.
Rather than, ‘I failed’, think, ‘for what good reason didn’t that happen?’
When I didn’t get through the election process to access the higher ranks, it would have been easy to tell myself it was because I was a woman. But I stopped, reflected and realised I had tried to pass exams whilst I’d been working extremely hard, plus studying, plus coping with personal stuff. No way was I on top form; no wonder I didn’t get through!
If things go wrong, being self-aware is critical – even more so when you are in a position of leadership.
Women: Don’t wait to be perfect – take a chance
In industries where there are still a lot of challenges for women, you may feel you have to work much harder to demonstrate what you can do. Yes, it does depend on who is doing the assessing, but in my experience, women are often better qualified but believe they have to be perfect before they take a chance and that’s why they miss out on opportunities. Take a risk – it’s likely it will turn out well.
Understanding how you solved a problem makes it a hundred times more useful
After working hard and attaining a goal, it is critical that you stop and reflect rather than charging on to the next stage of achievement. Once you understand why what you did worked, that’s when it becomes an invaluable tool you can use again and again.
If you meet opposition, reflect on the person’s agenda before you feel discouraged
When I was preparing for the Chief’s job interviews I met people who would say, ‘well, don’ be too disappointed if you don’t get it.’ When you realise that they are probably only saying it because they are jealous of what you could achieve, it doesn’t nearly so powerfully discourage you from your goals.
Trust yourself and your ideas – and tell people about them!
If I could give my 17-year-old cadet-self one piece of advice, this would be it!
I used to have lots of ideas on improving procedures but kept quiet because I didn’t think it was my place to say anything. Then I realised that other people were thinking the same thing, speaking out – and getting rewarded for it.
I was like – ‘I thought of that five years ago!’
Whenever you have to make a hard decision, stay connected to your humanness
The bigger the implications of a decision, the more important it is to stay connected to empathy. Use your imagination – if you have to make a tough call, wonder, ‘how will the person on the receiving end of my decision be affected?’ ‘What effects will this decisions have in a wider sense?’ ‘If I were receiving this information what would I want to hear and how would I want to hear it?’
Before you go for a job, ask yourself two things…
‘Do I agree with the values of this organisation?’ and ‘Will I enjoy myself here?’ If the answer is yes to both, it’s those that help you hang in there when the going gets tough.
Pauline Clare, Britain’s first female Chief Constable
Interview by Deborah Willimott