Police forces must boost their ranks of female officers as they tackle the "changing face of crime", Theresa May will say today.
Women now make up a greater proportion of the service than at any other time but more must be done to improve diversity, the Home Secretary will argue.
As of March there were 35,738 female officers across the 43 forces in England and Wales, representing 28.2% of the total number. The percentage has almost doubled since 2000, when it stood at 16.5%.
The proportion of women in senior roles has jumped, with 43 at chief officer rank - just over a fifth (21.4%) of the total. Data also shows female officers work in every specialism including firearms (8% female), mounted police (57% female) and public order (20% female).
In a speech at an event celebrating the achievements of women in the police, Mrs May will say: "The fact that we have a higher proportion of female police officers than ever before, more women in senior positions and more women in a diverse range of roles, is no accident.
"It is the result of the hard work of women in police forces up and down the country.
"While we have come a long way, we must go further if we are to ensure greater diversity and truly modern police forces that reflect the communities they serve and provide police officers able to tackle not only traditional crime but also the changing face of crime."
The Home Secretary will describe how policing "really was a man's world" a century ago, adding that her own department was among the first to challenge the recruitment of female officers.
"Shortly after the appointment of Britain's first ever female police constable with officials powers of arrest, the Home Office declared that women could not be sworn in as police officers because they were not deemed 'proper persons'.
"It makes you wonder what those Home Office officials would say now to having a female Home Secretary."
Some improvements to women's equality in policing are "surprisingly recent developments", Mrs May will say.
"As late as the 1980s, female officers were issued with uniform and kit which included a handbag, complete with a smaller truncheon to fit inside, and it wasn't until 1995 that our first female chief constable was appointed."
Increasing diversity in the police has emerged as a key issue for Mrs May. In October she attacked the lack of black and minority ethnic officers, describing the situation at some forces as "simply not good enough".
Women in senior policing roles include Lynne Owens, the chief constable of Surrey who has been appointed as the next head of the National Crime Agency, and Sara Thornton, the chair of the National Police Chief's Council.