A report from the inspector general for the Justice Department painted a stark picture of overwhelming male representation at four key federal law enforcement groups.
The report released Tuesday also highlighted a “concerning” level of gender discrimination and fear of retaliation, potentially leading to unreported incidents.
The release of the watchdog report put numbers to cross-institution questions about gender representation during a time of heightened attention to inequity, and bolstered concerns about discrimination and harassment at marquee law enforcement agencies.
Earlier this year, an agent at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives went public with allegations of retaliation for exposing sexism, and the Justice Department demoted the former head of its death penalty unit after The New York Times reported on accusations of sexism and improper management against the official, Kevin Carwile.
The four components of the Justice Department under review in the report — ATF, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the FBI and the US Marshals Service — told the inspector general “they were striving to increase the diversity, including gender, of staff to better represent the population their component serves.”
The report offered a gender overview of the agencies from fall 2010 to fall 2016 and included results from interviews, focus groups and anonymous surveys.
Few female criminal investigators, leaders
The report found that women made up under 40 percent of the workforce for all four agencies, and it pegged the female share of special agents at the FBI, the ATF, the DEA and deputy marshals — termed the “criminal investigator population” — at 16 percent overall.
Interviews and focus groups demonstrated that people think there is a “glass ceiling” for women in those agencies, the inspector general said.
And this glass ceiling extended outside headquarters, with women less likely to hold leadership positions in field offices as well, and when they did lead field offices, it was “seldom” in larger offices, divisions or districts, according to the report.
Discrimination and concerns about reporting
The inspector general’s office said its surveys showed 22 percent of female respondents — along with 43 percent of female special agent and deputy marshal respondents — said “they had experienced some form of gender discrimination during the previous five years.”
“Many female staff members referred to their component as ‘male dominated’ or having a ‘macho’ culture, which they believed negatively affected them,” the report said.
The report said there was a wide split between men and women they had heard from, with men much less likely to recognize discrimination within their agencies.
Over the period reviewed, the inspector general found a stigma around filing complaints, along with fears of retaliation and a lack of trust in the process.