Women are less likely than men to go for promotion in the police, new figures reveal.
However, female officers who do apply to be sergeants or inspectors are more likely to succeed, according to a new detailed analysis of who rises through the ranks of Police Scotland and when.
The new figures come after a concerted effort to encourage women to join the force – and look to promoted posts when they do so.
Despite recent gains, women only account for fewer than one third of Scotland's police officers. In May 2014 some 31.1 per cent of constables were women.
However only 27.2 per cent of constables who had applied for a sergeant position by September 2014 were women, according to figures put to the Scottish Police Authority, the force's civilian oversight body.
This shortfall was compensated for by those women who do apply being more successful than their male colleagues.
Some 31.1 per cent of successful applicants to be sergeants were women.
The reluctance of women to come forward worried Emma Ritch, executive director of Engender, which has been campaigning to see more female officers rise through the ranks.
She said: “The figures clearly show a gender gap in applications for promotion.
“We recognise that Police Scotland is taking steps to overcome a legacy of male domination, but it seems that there's a case to be made for a redoubling of efforts.
“Creating a culture in which women feel like their ambitions can be realised is not just about jobs for the girls.
“It's important in a modern Scotland, where policing happens by consensus, that those who protect and serve can understand the lives and experiences of all of Scotland's people.
“Senior women shift organisations' understanding of the ways in which women's lives still differ from men's. Women's safety, at home and in public spaces, relies on that understanding.”
Deputy Chief Constable Rose Fitzpatrick, shortly after taking up her post at the outset of Police Scotland two years ago, said she would like to see half of all officers be women.
Ms Fitzpatrick is one of just two women among Scotland's 12 chief officer ranks. The other is the relatively new head of local policing in the east of Scotland, Assistant Chief Constable Kate Thomson.
Two of Police Scotland's five civilian executives are women, head of finance Janet Murray and director of corporate services Susan Mitchell.
Calum Steele, the general secretary of the Scottish Police Federation, said: “I am delighted to see more and more women are applying for promotion and equally delighted that when it comes to actual promotion, more and more are being successful.
“The service has taken great strides in improving career opportunities for women. But, despite these encouraging statistics, the service must not become complacent that it has done all that needs to be done.”
A spokesman for Police Scotland said: “We continue to work to ensure that our organisation reflects the community that it serves.
“As part of that work we have been pleased to see an increase in the number of female recruits into Police Scotland.
“As a consequence of this we are now seeing more women taking up supervisory and management roles. This is a positive for the organisation and for the public.”
Analysis of promotions also shows it takes an average of 11-16 years of service for constables to become sergeants.
The force is currently looking at ways of allowing some officers to make their first step on the promotion ladder more quickly.