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Book Review: Women Leading Justice

Women Leading Justice: Experiences and Insights. By Elaine Gunnison and Jacqueline B. Helfgott. Routledge;; 258 pages; $39.95.

Women working in male-oriented fields face unique challenges, yet they often don’t have female mentors or know where to turn for advice or support. Women Leading Justice: Experiences and Insights helps fill the gap and serves as a foundational guide for all women in the criminal justice field, regardless of experience level, position, or industry sector.

The reader gains a multitude of perspectives from 36 successful women in criminal justice. Their voices come through while discussing the (short) history of women in criminal justice, stereotypes and obstacles, the elusive work/life balance, and preparation for success in every type of position, from policing to the boardroom. The book is well documented and offers hundreds of additional sources to the reader.

The authors did an outstanding job weaving data gathered from a qualitative study with narrative and personal stories, bringing the material to life. Every chapter starts with the history, trends, and challenges of a specific branch of the criminal justice profession. Then women discuss how and why they entered the profession, challenges on the rise to the top, and tools for success. Finally, they give their best advice to those following in their footsteps. Direct quotes from the women add their voices to the data.

An introductory chapter explores the history of women in the workplace and current issues surrounding gender and employment. The final section discusses the main themes emanating from the research. A way forward is then presented, with recommendations for leader development and enhanced policy support. While acknowledging that we still have far to go, the authors end on an optimistic note regarding the many talents women bring to these unique workplaces.

Because job changes are common in the criminal justice field, the book is a perfect resource for those considering different realms, whether policing, the court system, corrections, victim and restorative justice, or academia. It is also of value to the men who supervise, work with, and work for women.

Bottom line: this book must be on every criminal justice professional’s shelf to use as a reference, for mentoring, and as a reminder that others have faced the same challenges we do—and prevailed.

Reviewer: Dr. Jennifer Hesterman is a retired Air Force colonel with more than 30 years of experience as a national and homeland security leader and practitioner. She is an academic author and professor, but her greatest joy is mentoring and coaching intelligence, law enforcement, and military professionals. She is a member of the ASIS School Safety and Security Council.