The best way to help women advance in any organization is to set targets and milestones, and to measure results. The RCMP is no exception. A better gender balance and a more equitable culture won't happen through wishful thinking.
Public Safety Minister Vic Toews wants the RCMP to introduce a detailed action plan to increase the recruitment of female cadets, to devise measures to promote them, and to implement an effective and timely way to address complaints of sexual harassment.
This would chart a new course for a beleaguered force. It is a laudable goal.
However, Commissioner Bob Paulson is already well down that path, improving systems and restoring pride in the national police force.
There is no reason to doubt Mr. Paulson's resolve. Instead of publicly rebuking the country's top Mountie for sharing the results of an internal report on gender in the RCMP with the public, Mr. Toews should step out of the commissioner's way. He does not need arbitrary deadlines and demands that changes be introduced by Dec. 11, as Mr. Toews did in a letter that was strategically leaked. Nor does he need finger-wagging from the Minister.
Since his appointment a year ago, Mr. Paulson has pledged to reduce the number of harassment complaints, to address grievances more quickly and to hire and promote more women. In fact, he recently told the media that he is looking for a senior officer who can become a "champion" of gender issues within the force, and wants to make the promotion process more transparent – based in part on the report's findings.
The "Gender-Based" audit, released on Friday, found a clear bias against the promotion of women, and a lack of transparency in the process. The RCMP should address gender differences in the physical screening evaluations for recruits, and make sure that women are not disproportionately affected by work-life balance difficulties and concerns over relocation, it notes.
The number of female cadets at the RCMP has dropped by 52 per cent in the past four years; currently only 20 per cent of the 19,000-member force are women. The target is 30 per cent.
Mr. Paulson, known for his blunt speaking style, must now use his leadership and skills to bring in policies that will overcome these problems, and which will measure progress. There is no reason to doubt that he will.