QUANTICO, Va. (WVEC) -- The Federal Bureau of Investigation is looking to add more women to its ranks and to increase the number of people it employs from different racial, cultural, and career backgrounds.
Leaders at the training academy in Quantico acknowledge that diversity in recruitment is needed.
The latest figures show that women make up less than 20 percent of the FBI's special agents. Minorities, as a whole, account for little more than 16 percent of agents.
Despite appearances, Basic Field Training Course Unit Chief Kellie Holland said it is a myth that the FBI is male-dominated and that there isn't a female or diverse presence. Still, simply attempting to debunk the myth isn’t sufficient.
Efforts to recruit agents and analysts from all walks of life is a priority, and soon there will be some noticeable changes inside Quantico.
Holland does believe the agency has evolved since the days of its first director, J. Edgar Hoover, and the accompanying images of white men in dark suits.
Pointing to herself as an example, she noted the bureau has progressed in encouraging diversity. She added she has not been subjected to stereotypes or sexism during her 14 years as an agent.
“I am proud to say that the fact that I'm a female hasn't been a detriment or I haven't been preferentially treated because of it,” she stated. “Just like everybody else, I've had to prove myself.”
Women, however, only made up a quarter of the last class at Quantico.
“Oh, I'd love to be 75-25, absolutely!” Holland exclaimed.
The importance of a diversified agency, she points out, isn’t just a matter of meeting employment quotas. In the case of the FBI, diversity may translate into a faster route to justice.
“The more diverse we are, the better that we can evaluate the circumstance or a challenge,” Holland explained. “The more diverse we are, the more perspectives we bring to that challenge, which will also help us come to a better resolution.”
The last class that graduated from Quantico had ballerinas, school teachers, doctors, mathematicians, and lawyers in it. In addition to diverse career backgrounds, the class’ members represented different races and religions.
“We have some amazing women in my class on both the agent and the analyst side,” said FBI analyst Nikki, who was in an academy class we were able to observe. “They are very capable. Some of our most capable analysts and agents are women.”
Nikki, whose full identity we agreed to shield for safety reasons, noted, “Sometimes you have to put your foot down. Sometimes you have to be a strong woman to be a woman in this field.”
With more than 20,000 people working in that field – in jobs about which the public never hears -- one of the FBI’s most important jobs is letting people know the organization has room for everyone.
“I always tell people substance levels the playing field,” Nikki told 13News Now. “Whatever you're doing in life, if you can prove that you know what you're doing, if you can prove that you are competent, capable, that you're on the same level playing field, then they receive that.”
The FBI's Facebook Page features a discussion with a special agent who shares her experience with the bureau.