DOJ OIG Releases Review of Gender Equity within Agency

The Department of Justice has released the results of a review of gender equity across the department’s various law enforcement components.

 The review was “initiated after receiving several complaints from various sources, including Senator Charles E. Grassley and DOJ employees, expressing concerns about gender discrimination and harassment in the Department’s law enforcement components.”

The review was conducted by DOJ’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) and looked at Fiscal Years 2011 through 2016, aiming “to gauge employees’ perceptions about whether all staff have the same career opportunities regardless of gender.” In conducting the review, OIG “conducted 133 individual interviews as well as 57 focus groups with a total of 228 participants.”

Of those surveyed, 52 percent said their agency “had a gender equitable culture.” However, several data points appear alarming, including what the OIG deemed one of its “most striking findings:” that “women in Special Agent and Deputy U.S. Marshal (Criminal Investigator) positions consistently reported distinctly more negative perceptions of equity and experiences with differing treatment and discrimination than other staff in the four law enforcement components.”

One key factor: “the representation of women forms an important part of staff perceptions about gender equity,” with the OIG noting that only 16 percent of the Criminal Investigator population is female.

Among the report’s other findings were that “female criminal investigators frequently reported gender discrimination” and that “both men and women believed that personnel decisions, including promotions, were based on personal relationships more than merit.” Furthermore, “dissatisfaction with and mistrust about the EEO process and fear of retaliation may limit the utility of the process as a tool to address discrimination.”

The OIG offers six recommendations at the conclusion of the 100-page report:

  1. Assess recruitment, hiring, and retention activities to identify barriers to

gender equity in the workforce.

  1. Develop and implement component-level recruiting, hiring, and retention

strategies and goals that address the identified barriers to gender equity in

the workforce.

  1. Develop and implement a plan to track and analyze demographic information

on newly hired staff and applicants, as appropriate, to evaluate recruitment strategies.

  1. Identify and take steps to address barriers to advancement for women within the component and among different job types.
  1. Develop and implement methods to improve the objectivity and transparency of the merit promotion process.
  1. Develop and implement methods to address perceptions of stigmatization and retaliation associated with the Equal Employment Opportunity complaint process.

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