A long research tradition has documented gender differences in career choices and outcomes in several professions, including the police. However, there is debate about whether such differences reflect initial preferences, socially constructed ideas about the incompatibility of family and working life or the objective constraints that men and women meet in their careers and family lives.
This paper explores the initial preferences for career and promotion among male and female police students in Norway. Norwegian female police students are selected rigorously; they have chosen a traditionally male-dominated profession, and they live in a welfare society where the possibilities for combining work and family life are well developed. Under these circumstances, will the initial promotion aspirations of men and women differ? If so, will gender differences persist when family obligations and age are controlled for?
These questions were explored using 2009 and 2010 data for first-year police students in Norway (N = 1,079). The results showed that male and female police students have remarkably similar aspirations for promotion, and this remained true when family obligations and age were controlled for. The results indicate that differences in initial preferences do not explain gender differences in career choices and outcomes.