REPORT: Female Law Enforcement Agents Say Personal Relationships Matter More Than Merit


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Grace Carr Reporter
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A number of women in law enforcement believe they often get the short end of the stick regarding career advancement opportunities because they’re women, according to a government report.

The Department of Justice (DOJ)’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) announced the release of a June gender equity report Tuesday, indicating that women working in law enforcement feel promotions are often based more on interpersonal relationships than on merit.

The report examines gender equity within the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the U.S. Marshals Service (USMS).

The report indicates that while a majority of staff members believe they work in a gender equitable environment, female staffers — particularly criminal investigators — did not hold the same view. Only 33 percent of female criminal investigator survey respondents think their agency treats women equally.

Women account for 16 percent of the DOJ’s criminal investigators.

The OIG compiled the report by conducting individual interviews, focus groups and an anonymous online surveys. Fifteen percent of the staff, roughly 8,000 employees, responded.

Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture National Finance Center

A number of female staffers reported they had experienced gender discrimination, including missed opportunities for promotions while serving the DOJ. They also indicated that career-advancing moves as well as promotions were often based on relationships rather than merit-based credentials. They also pointed to the lacking numbers of women in executive leadership positions, alleging that the dearth of female higher-ups is due to discrimination rather than a low percentage of women in law enforcement. Some pointed to a “glass ceiling” for women. (RELATED: The Gender Gap In STEM Exists, With Women Often Ahead: Study)

Women make up 39.3 percent of the ATF, FBI, DEA and USMS.

A number of staff members, male and female, also said they experienced discrimination but did not report it afterward.

Discussions of gender equity have also expanded beyond the U.S. Canadian Science Minister Kirsty Duncan is following Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s push for gender equity, asking all federal government departments employing scientists to provide staff percentages by gender.

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