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Daily Dose: Would More Female Agents have Discouraged Cartagena Shenanigans?

Can a lack of workforce diversity lead to on-the-job shenanigans? That’s the question the Washington Post asked in regards to the Secret Service prostitution scandal, and how few women are employed as special agents. Only 11% of special agents are women; some Congresswomen think this lack of diversity could have contributed to the poor
decisions of the agents in Cartagena. Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.) said that the probability of the scandal would have been “reduced significantly” if there were more women in Cartagena. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Tex.) also said that she believes greater gender diversity could have made them consider other leisurely activities.

However, former Secret Service deputy director Barbara Riggs said she believes it can’t be certain whether more women would have made the scandal less likely, and that raising the question “does a disservice to men who serve honorably.”

Secret Service Needs More Women in its Ranks

I did some quick research myself, and found that many scholars and managers alike do believe that diverse groups are better decision makers with less groupthink.

Would more diversity in the Secret Service have made the scandal less likely? Do you focus on diversity when building a team?


“Daily Dose of the Washington Post” is a blog series created by GovLoop in partnership with The Washington Post. If you see great stories in the Post and want to ask a question around it, please send them to [email protected].

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Deb Green

There’s an inductive leap here and I’m not sure it’s a sound argument. Diversity is one of the key antidotes to groupthink, but that’s a slippery slope being set up.

Are the alleged illegal actions of these individuals a symptom of groupthink? That’s a dangerous assumption. If the allegations are true, let’s not forget, these are bad choices made by individuals.

Could these alleged actions been avoided by having more women on the advance team? Or just more women in the 1811 field at USSS? I doubt it. Assigning blame to an organization is puerile, IMHO.

Now, is an 11% female agent population for USSS great? Not in my opinion. But dig deeper. I doubt anyone will find that it’s because USSS agents are allegedly soliciting prostitutes. It’s likely a larger discussion of upward mobility, “halo effect” plucking for key positions, assignment process, “must move” requirements, and a lot of other personnel related reasons that keep that number deflated.

I wonder – what’s the population breakout of that 11% – is it fat at the entry level 1811? Does it peter out at the 5-6 year mark and dwindle to barely a trickle beyond that?

Corey McCarren

To clarify a little for you, Deb, the 11% was referring solely to special agents (such as those on assignment in Cartagena), not the percentage of women in the organization overall. I don’t know the specifics beyond that.

Deb Green

Right – I understood that. My point was what’s the population distribution of the 11% of female 1811’s (the job series for federal law enforcement) along the career path. Fat at the entry level for 1811’s through till about 5-6 years in, and then a large drop off?