Police HR directors have been urged to embrace a new equality project which is hoped will improve the recruitment and retention of women in the force.
A report, The Gender Agenda, is being distributed to police forces around the country with the aim of improving work conditions for women officers. It highlights outdated practices and the challenges faced by female officers.
Matthew Baker, head of employee relations for Surrey Police, welcomed the report as an important step in achieving equality.
He said, "One of the stark statistics is that 10 years ago only 8 per cent of officers were female and now it is only 16 per cent. We are still a long way from being representative of the community."
Part-time positions and direct entry into roles where a candidate has suitable skills should be used to encourage more women to join the police, claimed Baker.
The report, which has been developed over the past 18 months by police bodies, criticises work practices that deter women. These include long residential courses, managerial reluctance to introduce work-life balance practices and ill-fitting protective clothing designed for men.