CUMBRIA’S chief constable Michelle Skeer has been appointed president of an influential national association that strives to promote gender equality in British policing.

As the county’s first female chief constable - and one of only five women occupying the top job in the UK’s 43 police forces - Mrs Skeer has already shown how gender need not be a bar to a successful police career.

In her new role with the British Association for Women in Policing (BAWP), she hopes to continue the trailblazing work of her predecessor Dee Collins from West Yorkshire Police. “It’s about life experiences, and wanting a workforce that represents your community,” said Mrs Skeer, a mum-of-three who combined family life her police career.

When she joined the force in 1990, the number of women officers in Cumbria was low - possibly about 20 per cent of the total. Today, in Cumbria, an impressive 41 per cent of the county’s police officers are women.

Reflecting on how attitudes to gender have changed in policing, Mrs Skeer said: “It’s about retaining skills ability; we were losing a lot of talent... the culture was completely different but I think the service has made massive strides.”

The BAWP embraces women of all ranks and grades within the police service and aims to ensure their voices are heard and work towards gender equality.

Mrs Skeer said she has benefitted from the efforts of previous women police officers, including Christine Twig, who retired as the Cumbria force’s Deputy Chief Constable in 2008.

She is looking forward to working with the BAWP committee, whose members are “passionate and dedicated”.

“I am delighted to be taking over the President role, following the fantastic leadership of Dee Collins,” she said.

“I have been passionate about making it easier for others who have followed me, so I have championed issues within the force – whether it be part-time working, job share, buddy schemes, mentoring, coaching or uniform issues...

“I continue to chair the Valuing Individual Group in force, which I have done since 2008, which brings together support groups covering all strands of diversity, including gender.

“I want to improve things in force for all diverse groups, providing these support groups with a strategic voice.”

During her career, Mrs Skeer worked in numerous operational roles before becoming a detective.

She was appointed the Cumbria force’s Director of Professional Standards in 2007, and in 2009 became an Assistant Chief Constable. In the same year, she served as Gold Commander during the catastrophic floods in the county. She later became the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) lead for Sexual Offenders and Violent Offenders.

She added: “You can combine a [police]career with family life. It’s a brilliant job.”

In 2015, Mrs Skeer was given a BAWP Leadership Award for her work on gender issues. Her other firsts in Cumbria include becoming the first female detective sergeant with children, and the first woman to work part-time in a specialist department.