An internal Department of Justice gender equality group that represents almost 400 employees and contractors issued a complaint letter on Tuesday decrying the lack of women leaders at the DOJ, specifically in its litigating divisions.
“The dearth of women in top leadership roles sends a negative message, both to Department employees and to the public at large, that DOJ does not value including women in top-level decision-making,” the DOJ Gender Equality Network wrote in the letter, addressed to senior leaders of the department’s litigating offices.
The advocacy group, which is comprised of about 375 DOJ employees and contractors, urged management to be “vigilant in recognizing the importance of gender diversity and inclusion when making hiring decisions for leadership positions in your offices.”
The Gender Equality Network noted in its letter that in eight DOJ offices that handle litigation — including the Antitrust, Civil, Criminal, National Security and Tax divisions — none of the top leadership positions is held by a woman and of 50 senior-level positions in these divisions, 49 are held by men.
The group also pointed out a lack of gender parity in managerial senior executive service (SES) positions in the department’s litigating offices.
“Women currently fill roughly 45 percent of attorney positions and hold about 38 percent of SES positions in the litigating components,” the letter reads, adding: “We believe that when more women and employees of diverse backgrounds are in SES roles, decision makers will be exposed to a greater variety of ideas and perspectives, which in turn fosters greater innovation and productivity, and better results.”
In a statement, Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec, director of the Office of Public Affairs, said that the DOJ is “committed to enforcing employment anti-discrimination laws, implementing policies that will ensure equal employment opportunity in all aspects of the Department’s daily operations and hiring practices, and fostering inclusive work environments that afford men and women from diverse backgrounds the equal opportunity to grow in their careers and support the Justice mission,” according to BuzzFeed.
The outlet noted that there are several women in leadership roles in other offices at the department including the Office of Legal Policy, the Office of Tribal Justice, and the Office of Violence Against Women.
Ten of the 38 offices listed in the DOJ’s organizational chart are led by women, BuzzFeed said.
The Justice Department has come under scrutiny for its lack of gender diversity in the past. A June report from the department’s inspector general revealed a lack of female representation in four federal law enforcement groups: the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; the Drug Enforcement Administration; the FBI; and the U.S. Marshals Service.
A “concerning” level of discrimination and harassment at the four agencies was also uncovered, the report said.