Network of 375 federal attorneys says "dearth" of women sends "negative message."
The leadership of the high-profile litigation shops at the Justice Department is too male-dominated, according to a letter sent to the department this week by a network of 375 federal attorneys and reported by several news outlets.
The Department of Justice Gender Equality Network on Feb. 12 wrote to the seven assistant attorneys general (all male) who run the litigation components to “express our concern about lack of women in top-level leadership positions and ask that you be vigilant in recognizing the importance of gender diversity and inclusion when making hiring decisions.”
The network, which includes contractors, said, “There are currently no women in top-level leadership roles” in the antitrust, civil rights, criminal, national security and tax divisions, or in the solicitor general’s office. “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,” said the letter signed by the group’s president, Stacey Young, and vice president, Melanie Krebs-Pilotti.
It supplied data showing that women occupy 45 percent of attorney positions and 38 percent of Senior Executive Service managerial positions in agency litigation. “It is vital that women be considered for SES Roles in the litigating components,” the group added, noting that SES leaders handle day-to-day decisions and apply human resources policies.
“We believe that when 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,” the letter said.
The network’s mission is to “support the department in developing and implementing effective policies and practices to enhance equality of opportunity regardless of gender, foster an inclusive workplace, and prevent gender-based discrimination in all departmental activities.”
The group's two top officials asked to hear from each of the assistant attorneys general on what they have done or plan to do to address gender disparity. The letter also asked that they “raise the issue with the acting attorney general and any future attorney general as a matter of priority for your office and for the department.”
The Justice Department did not respond to Government Executive’s request for comment.
At Justice on Friday, a newly Senate-confirmed William Barr took his post as attorney general, replacing acting AG Matt Whitaker.
Gender disparities have been highlighted at many of Justice’s law enforcement agencies. Last June, for example, the department’s inspector general released a report documenting that women occupy only 16 percent of positions in the four crime-fighting agencies, and are confined mostly to human resources, finance and program analysis.