My first assignment was at the Madison RA out of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I was the only female in the office and the only female federal law enforcement officer in the Western District of Wisconsin, which meant that I had to do the body cavity searches of the female prisoners when we took them to the Marshals lockup because they didn’t have any women to do it.
For the most part, the agents that I worked with there were great. I had a supervisor at one point who told me he was very uncomfortable having a female agent. I think because he was worried about my ability to handle myself and worried about my safety. But when I left two years later he told me that he had requested another female to replace me, so I converted him. The citizens were a little different and particularly in the rural areas of Wisconsin. I actually had people refuse to talk to me saying there’s no such thing as female FBI agents, we watch TV, we know. So that was a little more difficult. But on the whole I found people very supportive, at least the FBI people and the other law enforcement I worked with were generally very supportive.
I think women coming through today, they benefit from the experiences of all the women that have gone before, and the fact that it’s not considered so unusual now. We have a lot of female agents. They’re very experienced, they’re very skilled, and they just bring a different perspective to the job. They have a different skill set, and there are situations where I think they can be more effective than a male agent whether it’s because they may be less intimidating to a subject or they may fill a different role. But I just think as a whole the Bureau is better for having women agents. I think we make the Bureau more complete.
To the female agents I tell them bottom line you’ve got to be competent. Whatever else you do, be competent. Don’t try to make excuses for yourself, don’t try to take the easy road because you’re a female, do everything that you’re asked to do, do it well, and do it with a smile. And people will soon forget that you’re a female You’ll just be a good agent, because that’s really what you want. You want people to say yeah she’s a good agent. You don’t want people to say she’s a good female agent. She’s a good agent, that’s what you strive for.