Glass ceiling for women at the CIA still exists: report


A man walks across the seal of the Central Intelligence Agency at the lobby of the Original Headquarters Building at the CIA headquarters in McLean, Virginia.


Alex Wong

In spite of the fact that 46 percent of the US Central Intelligence Agency’s workforce is female and women are in charge of two of the agency’s four directorates, a glass ceiling is firmly in place at the spy service, a new report asserts.

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About a year ago, then-CIA Director David H. Petraeus asked former Secretary of State Madeline Albright to lead an investigation into why more women were not being promoted into the Senior Intelligence Service. The resulting report, “CIA Women in Leadership,” was released this spring. It suggests that women are held back, in part, by a lack of informal sponsors who can help them advance to the top jobs and an inflexible work culture.

Unpredictable assignments requiring 60-hour-plus weeks are the most highly-valued at the CIA, the report says, disadvantaging women, who often take short-term leave or assignments requiring fewer hours to look after family.

“The agency’s focused view on intensive, career-boosting assignments diminishes recognition that officers can acquire the knowledge, skills, and experiences needed for leadership in different assignments,” the report says.

The report offers 10 recommendations for improving the career climate for women at the CIA, including publishing clear promotion criteria, rewarding managers who develop female talent and destigmatizing part-time work, flex-time and job-sharing.

CIA Director John O. Brennan has said he fully supports the recommendations, noting that changing the agency culture will help the agency better fulfill its mission, the Washington Post reported.