40% of the CIA’s Field Operatives are Women, Can We Have a Black Widow Movie Now?

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How well do you know your female coworkers? Friends? Could some of them be spies?

Well, no, that’s not very likely. Unless you work in a different sort of business than most of us. And of course the CIA, like any intelligence agency, has a complicated history (and present), but it’s still pretty cool that the CIA has recovered from being the sort of government agency with numerous workplace allegations levied at it to nearly gender equal in less than two decades.

And it isn’t all superstar male spies with five Moneypenny’s each, with deputy director Avril Haines, executive director Meroe Park, and Director of Intelligence Fran Moore. In the mid-nineties the CIA was the target of many women suing for gender discrimination, but now, according to a report for NBC by Anne Curry, their staff is 40% women, with many women in high ranking positions.

Curry didn’t just interview current female CIA staffers, but also female CIA operatives who worked during World War II (to quote one, “I was doing exactly the same things as majors and lieutenant colonels” and we were still referred to as “The Girls.”) and CIA director John Brennan, who has some great quotes on the importance of having women and minorities in the CIA that could be applicable anywhere:

We cannot expect the people who look like me to really understand what’s going on in far parts of the world… I have obviously lived among women my entire life, but I have not seen the world through a woman’s eyes. I have not experienced different things as a woman.

That’s still a thing that’s pretty shocking to hear an middle aged or older white guy say on a news program, much less a middle aged or older white guy who works for a shadowy government institution. It goes without saying that agencies like the CIA, who create and fund long term operations with undercover staff, need people who can easily and quietly be set up as convincingly natural citizens of places very different from Washington DC. James Bond wouldn’t get very far at pretending to be a native citizen of very many countries outside of North America or Europe, but Olivia Halifax-Lin, a biracial British-Chinese  operative in Neal Stephenson‘s REAMDE, is the perfect employee for MI6 to set up on a long term undercover operation monitoring radical Islamists in Xiamen.

There are lots more items and tidbits of interest in both NBC’s report and Jezebel’s post on it.

(via Jezebel.)


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Susana Polo
Susana Polo thought she'd get her Creative Writing degree from Oberlin, work a crap job, and fake it until she made it into comics. Instead she stumbled into a great job: founding and running this very website (she's Editor at Large now, very fancy). She's spoken at events like Geek Girl Con, New York Comic Con, and Comic Book City Con, wants to get a Batwoman tattoo and write a graphic novel, and one of her canine teeth is in backwards.