A Justice Department Gender Equality Group Wants More Women To Hold Senior Positions

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The United States has made a lot of progress when it comes to paying attention to problems of gender inequality in the workplace. Addressing the issue is another story, though. On Thursday, Department of Justice employees pointed out the gender inequality across the entire department in a letter sent to DOJ leaders.

The DOJ Gender Equality Network (DOJ GEN) sent a letter to six male assistant attorneys general and one principle deputy attorney general, noting that the Justice Department is severely lacking women in leadership roles. Specifically, DOJ GEN put a chart together displaying 50 senior leadership positions across 11 offices at the DOJ, showing that a woman only held one: Jean Williams, the deputy assistant attorney general at the Environment and Natural Resources Division.

"We write this letter to you, the heads of the Department of Justice litigating components, to express our concern about the lack of women in top level leadership positions," the letter began, "And to ask that you be vigilant in recognizing the importance of gender diversity and inclusion when making hiring decisions for leadership positions in your offices."

Beyond just pointing out the problem, though, DOJ GEN also offered a solution that rests on the commitment of the letter's addressees.

"We are interested to hear from each of you about what you have done or plan to do to address the lack of women in top-level leadership positions in your respective offices," the letter said. "We also ask that you raise this issue with the Acting Attorney General and any future Attorneys General as a matter of priority for your office and for the Department."

This isn't the first time that gender inequality at the Department of Justice has come up in the news, either. In June, an Inspector General report on the DOJ found that not only were women extremely underrepresented in leadership positions across several of the department's divisions, but that there was also significant gender discrimination. The problem went unreported because women feared retaliation if they spoke up about discrimination, CNN reports.

"They think women are weak," former FBI Special Agent Robin Gritz told The Hill. Gritz said she submitted an Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) complaint after discovering emails between other employees discussing how to get her out of the department.

Gritz and the DOJ GEN had the same reasoning for why gender diversity at the highest levels of the Justice Department is so important.

"You want to make sure that you have a diverse leadership," Gritz told The Hill. "If there's hardly any women in leadership, you're given the perception that there is discrimination practices going on."

In addition to bringing up the value of a diverse staff in increasing innovation and productivity, the DOJ GEN also mentioned the negative messaging that overwhelming male leadership sends to the world.

"The dearth of women in top leadership roles sends a negative message," the letter said. "Both to Department employees and to the public at large, that DOJ does not value women in top-level decision-making."