A social media post spruiking the Australian Federal Police’s bid to lure more women to the force has sparked an online gender storm.
But the AFP said the attention, both good and bad, had been an opportunity for engagement and education and to raise awareness in relation to gender equity in the force.
The post said the AFP needed more women in its ranks and that the recruitment round is “unashamedly targeting women.”
“We need a better gender balance – with our ultimate goal being a 50/50 representation of men and women,” the Facebook post said.
“We’re looking for smart women. Agile women. Keen women. Women who want to take advantage of the unique opportunities we provide to work both in Australia and overseas.”
It attracted more than 3100 comments, 2000 reactions, and 639 shares in 8 hours.
There were mixed responses, with many users questioning the AFP’s push for gender quality.
“AFP you have rejected highly competent male applicants to push this “Equality” agenda,” a user commented.
“That isn’t a guess, it’s a fact. I know several of them personally.
“Recruitment should be performance based, not some kind of social experiment. You are meant to be a professional law enforcement agency. Clearly you aren’t.”
Another user said they wished organisations would stop “trying to get gender balance or balances based on other factors”.
“Just employ the most suitable person for the job irrespective of gender, sexual orientation or religion after all positions should be assigned based on merit.”
But others were quick to defend the organisation, saying they were proud of the initiative the AFP took.
“I for one am totally proud of the AFP taking the initiative to try and create an equal balance of genders in their force,” the comment said.
“The fact that this thread has brought out all the trolls, haters, and men & women alike harbouring internalised misogyny drives home the point that gender equality is still a fight worth fighting for.
“Unless you have an opinion based on a thorough educated understanding of feminism then I strongly urge you to ask yourself *why* you have a problem with the AFP trying to create a 50/50 balance of men and women.”
When asked by Fairfax Media if they were surprised about the reactions from users, the AFP said they expected the announcement would generate a large and mixed response.
“More than 2000 people have joined the AFP’s “Recruitment” Facebook group, with scores of questions being answered by the AFP’s recruitment team,” the spokesperson said.
The AFP said women comprise 22 per cent of sworn police and 13.5 per cent of protective security officers. They said their goal is to increase this proportion to 35 per cent in both streams by 2021.
“Today’s ‘special measure’ recruitment action is designed to supplement our current recruitment process – we already have a pool of suitable male and female candidates who applied recently,” the AFP Facebook page said.
“This action we’re taking will provide us with additional female candidates. It’s not going to displace existing recruitment pools and it will require applicants to meet all the existing gateways.”