A report by the Department of Justice's Office of the Inspector general highlights a gender inequity problem in all four of the department's law enforcement components: The FBI, the DEA, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the U.S. Marshalls Service. The review found women to be underrepresented in operational positions generally and even more so in leadership. Unfortunately, male staff seemed unaware of the problem.
"While overall staff generally believed that their components were gender equitable," the inspector general said in a video, "our review found that women, especially female criminal investigators, overwhelmingly did not hold this view."
In fiscal year 2016, for example, women accounted for only 16 percent of criminal investigators across the four law enforcement components. And, the report found, many women believe there is a glass ceiling on promotions. Women held field leadership roles only between 6.3 and 11 percent of the time.
"During the 6-year scope of our review," reads the report, "there were few women leading field offices, field divisions, or districts and even fewer women in headquarters executive positions leading operational units. Further, we found that the components have taken limited actions to increase the number of women at all levels of the organizations."
Meanwhile, women account for, on average, 57 percent of professional staff and are especially well represented in human resources.
Another disheartening fact: an underlying survey found that some women at the DOJ experience direct gender discrimination. The survey found that 22 percent of all women at the department and 43 percent of criminal investigators had experienced sex discrimination at some point in the past five years. Employees of both sexes said they did not like the Equal Employment Opportunity process, so many chose not to file discrimination claims.
All four components agreed with all OIG recommendations
The inspector general made several recommendations to combat gender inequality at the DOJ, and each of the four law enforcement components concurred with them:
- Identify barriers against women in recruitment, hiring and retention.
- Develop goals and strategies to address those barriers.
- Track and analyze new hires' demographic information so that recruitment strategies can be evaluated.
- Identify barriers to women's advancement and take steps to address those barriers across all job types.
- Implement a more objective and transparent merit promotion process.
- Address employees' perception that they will be stigmatized or retaliated against if they use the Equal Employment Opportunity complaint process.
If you work at the DOJ or anywhere in the federal government, you may have experienced gender inequities. Hiring a federal employment law attorney before you file a complaint can help you build a strong case and limit stigma and retaliation.