Only 20% of FBI agents nationwide are women — and that number is less in St. Louis: 10%.
So, the bureau hopes an event scheduled for July 24 in St. Louis will encourage more women to consider the FBI as a career.
“The bedrock of the FBI is our credibility, and that comes from public trust,” said Alicia Corder, a 16-year veteran of the bureau. “And we earn public trust so much more effectively when we represent the community that we serve.”
Corder is the first female assistant special agent in charge in the St. Louis field office, running the national security section. She was selected for the FBI Academy right out of law school, and spent the early part of her career in California.
Corder went to college to become a doctor but changed her career path after hearing an FBI agent speak in a required criminology class.
“It was something that I wanted to do, and I had to go look for it and ask the questions and find the people to talk to,” she said. “I’ve definitely noticed in the last five years a definite effort from the bureau to go out and seek applicants, particularly minority applicants, female applicants.”
The more women that join the bureau, Corder said, the easier it is to recruit others in the future.
Special agent Lesley Edge has a similar story. She grew up wanting to either be an FBI agent or a doctor. The expense of medical school and the 9/11 attacks, which happened while she was in college, pushed her toward law enforcement.
“It is a male-dominated organization, but there’s definitely a need for women,” Edge said of the FBI. “Women just bring a different perspective. There are instances when you’re talking to the public, when you’re talking to victims. Especially if you have female victims, it just puts them more at ease if you have a woman doing it.”
Edge is used to being the lone woman among men. She’s the only female firearms instructor in the St. Louis field office, and was the only woman in her firearms school class of 46 agents.
“It’s made me more confident,” Edge said. “But you learn from them, too. It’s not necessarily a bad thing to be the only female.”
The FBI isn’t the only federal law enforcement agency that struggles to recruit women. Just 10% of the special agents in the Kansas City Field Division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are women, which is below the ATF’s national total of more than 14%. The U.S. Marshals Service in St. Louis has three female deputies out of 35. The Drug Enforcement Administration does a little better — nationwide, 36% of its agents are women. Local numbers were not immediately available.
John Ham, a spokesman for the ATF in Kansas City, said the organization has its own initiative to hire women agents called #SheIsATF.
“I don’t know if it’s a coordinated Justice Department initiative to recruit women, but we are certainly all competing for the same well-qualified applicants and recognize that the more diverse we are, the stronger we are,” he said.
FBI women’s symposium information
- Event takes place on July 24.
- Attendees must be at least 21 years old and at least working toward a bachelor’s degree.
- Pre-registration is required. To pre-register, visit FBIjobs.gov, click on “Apply to Jobs” and search “women’s symposium.”
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