Studies of how men and women behave in the workplace suggest men are more likely to ask for what they want than women. Our Rocket Women posts shine a light on women who have asked for something in their professional life that has had a significant impact on their career. We hope they fuel your resolve to ask for what you need to get on.
Kath White served in the Metropolitan Police for 33 years. The last half of her career was spent in the Force Firearms Unit, the front line against armed criminality. She reached the rank of Inspector and was in charge of a relief of 40 officers. Since then she’s completed a SIA bodyguard course and instructs media professionals on how to do their job safely in a riot environment. We haven’t included Kath’s picture as she doesn’t have an online profile. This is to safeguard her identity. She’s lives by the maxim “If the light at the end of the tunnel isn’t shining on you, stomp down there and turn the fu**er on yourself!”
Kath, please tell us about your memorable, game-changing ‘ask’…
I wanted to be shield trained to combat public disorder. In 1986 the Metropolitan Police did not include women within their shield trained ranks. This was about to change and I wanted to be there at the beginning.
If you hadn’t asked what would/wouldn’t have happened?
Women would still have been trained, but I may not have started out on a journey where I have continued to push at accepted barriers and boundaries and encouraged other women to do likewise
What made it difficult? Why is it a note-worthy ‘ask’?
It was a “first” and consequently women involved in the first training sessions were heavily scrutinised and there was a certain amount of pressure to keep the “status quo” and ensure that those initial women didn’t reach the standard
What difference did it make to you?
This made a massive and continuing change to my attitude and those of my male colleagues. I started a regular physical training routine in order to maintain a high level of fitness and ensure that I could never be sited as the officer who was the “weak link” in the team. It allowed me to increase my self confidence and realise that I could do much more than I had believed. Working in an environment dominated by men has increased my belief that women have the ability to extend themselves successfully. They can do far more than they assume is within their ability and do it as well, as anyone else. I also believe that women can actively support and encourage their female colleagues.
How did you prepare for making your request? What did you do to give yourself the best chance of getting a yes?
My prep wasn’t well thought out or planned, but went more on my reputation as a bit of a feminist. For example, when involved in a demonstration outside South Africa House and missiles started to be thrown……the Inspector in charge withdrew all the women that were in the front line, but left me. He probably did not want another confrontation!
What would you have done if the answer to your ‘ask’ was no?
I would have carried on pushing at the barriers!
Have you got an example of a missed opportunity to ask for something? What was the impact of not asking? Retrospective thoughts on what you would do differently in that situation?
I can’t think of a missed opportunity to ask for something. However I have failed assessments and believe that the reasons for those failures are the preparation or lack of it and also a lack of self belief…..so I haven’t quite got this area sussed! But I do believe that I have a realistic view of my abilities and am not superwoman!