'NCIS: New Orleans' Season 6 Episode 20 brings up gender discrimination in US federal agencies through Hannah
Spoilers for ‘NCIS: New Orleans’ Season 6 Episode 20
The NCIS team, not just from New Orleans, but from other cities in the show’s universe is always an egalitarian force. Men and women from different social backgrounds, races, and sexual orientations fight side by side in the federal agency. They are a band of fiercely loyal officers with a conscience. They fight for justice, whether it’s on the legal front, or it’s on the social front. Episode 20, ‘Predators’, saw the latter.
Hannah Khoury (Necar Zadegan), while unofficially investigating Deputy Director Van Cleef (Richard Thomas), stumbles across some disturbing truths. Van Cleef’s records suggested that he had reprimanded five times more women in his career than men. And in each of the cases, the women seemed to have an otherwise immaculate work record. This list included Hannah herself. Agent Quentin Carter (Charles Michael Davis) even confirms this when he tells Hannah that he had a friend similarly treated by Van Cleef.
As Hannah dives headfirst into this investigation, she finds her suspicions being confirmed by multiple women -- Van Cleef was discriminating on the basis of gender. The episode is a timely reminder of a potential sexism problem in federal law enforcement in the U.S.
Just a little under a year ago, 16 women filed a lawsuit against the FBI with detailed allegations of gender discrimination while they were trainees at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia. The civil suit alleged that what it calls a “Good Old Boy Network” at the academy resulted in female trainees being dismissed at higher rates than male trainees.
“Through passive tolerance, the FBI has intentionally allowed the Good Old Boy Network to flourish unrestrained at the FBI Academy,” the lawsuit alleged. One of the participants of the lawsuit claimed that while she passed all of her tests, she had received three notation failures for the tactical training portion, and subsequently was dismissed from the academy. All this, while her male colleagues who failed the same tests did not get dismissed.
The lawsuit further alleged that the male instructors defined the women trainees by “subjective citations”, such as “lack of emotional maturity”.
“For example, any effort to seek clarification, or better understanding of course curriculum or training scenarios by female trainees consistently resulted in female trainees being labeled as ‘argumentative’ and written up for ‘lack of candor’,” it said.
According to reports, women made up only one-fifth of the FBI’s agents as of October 2018. But it’s not just the FBI. A 2017 Politico survey found that federal law enforcement agencies remained almost as male-dominated as they were during the Clinton administration.
The survey, among other things, found that while in 1996, women held about 14 percent of the country’s federal law enforcement jobs, in 2017, women represented just 15 percent -- a one percent increase in two decades. This included all departments ranging from Customs and Border Protection to the Secret Service to the Drug Enforcement Agency.
There are other kinds of problems as well. To build camaraderie, female agents keep many of their true feelings to themselves, like other minorities in the profession, a female agent from a federal agency told the magazine. “You don't want to be that female,” the agent said. “Where all the guys are like, ‘Shh, don't say anything around her because she's gonna get you in trouble.’ I don't want to be that girl. I want them to trust me and feel comfortable around me.”
The report further identified a lack of respect as the biggest barrier facing women in the field in U.S. federal agencies. Six out of every 10 women respondents said there were not enough female role models. Many also complained about the lack of family-friendly policies, including shift work and mandatory relocations in certain agencies.
‘NCIS: New Orleans’ may live in a more perfect world than we do -- that much is evident from how quickly and efficiently crimes are solved and people are brought to justice. But the show never shies away from challenging real-world issues through its lens. There’s a reason why it holds a special place in a stream flooded with otherwise insipid procedurals.
'NCIS: New Orleans' Season 6 airs on Sundays at 10 pm on CBS.