WASHINGTON – Danielle Snider was sailing through her training to be an FBI agent last year, passing her fitness, academic and firearms tests. Then came the last phase: training on tactics like entering a house and confronting an armed attacker.
Snider, an Air Force Academy graduate, stumbled. In one day, instructors at the FBI’s sprawling facility in Quantico, Va., wrote her up four times. With less than two weeks to go before graduation, she was bounced from the course in January.
But in one instance, a man in training with her made a similar mistake and it was overlooked, she said. It was part of a pattern, she and other women who failed out of the academy said, in which instructors — almost all men — scrutinized them more closely and treated men differently when they erred.
“Everyone is making mistakes,” said Snider, 30, who found another job with the federal government as an investigator. “I felt it wasn’t the same playing field for women. I think it is fundamentally unfair.”
Snider is among a dozen women who accused the FBI of gender discrimination at its training academy, detailing their allegations in a complaint last month to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. One of the women also alleged she suffered discrimination because of her race and another because of a disability.
The FBI declined to comment on the complaint. In a statement, the bureau said it was “prioritizing advertising and recruiting aimed at women both nationally and through the 56 field offices.” The FBI also said the percentage of applicants to be agents who were women had increased, from 22 percent in the fiscal year that ended in September 2017 to 26 percent the following year. It hopes to reach 33 percent over the next year.
For years, the FBI has struggled to add more female agents. As of October, only a fifth of the bureau’s 13,500 agents were women. About 44 percent of the FBI’s 35,000 employees are women.
The FBI has set goals to hire more women but made no recruitment plan, the Justice Department inspector general found in a June report on gender equity in federal law enforcement from 2011 to 2016. In response, the FBI noted “a mild increase in female applicants” but acknowledged that the total was “still short of our stated goal.”
The FBI will continue to fall short unless it tackles the issues the women outlined in their complaint, said David J. Shaffer, a lawyer for the women.
“It is hard enough to recruit adequate numbers of women for these positions,” Shaffer said. “This destroys the FBI’s ability to even come close to a representative population and makes a joke of their diversity goals.”