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16 women allege discrimination at FBI Quantico training academy

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Sixteen women alleged in a lawsuit filed Wednesday that they faced rampant gender discrimination at the FBI’s training academy in Quantico, Virginia, which they say continues to foster a “Good Old Boy Network” within its ranks.

The women, seven of whom still work for the agency, alleged that they were held to higher standards than male trainees, often subjected to sexual harassment, singled out and unfairly scrutinized, and that instructors disproportionately wrote them up and dismissed them.

Ten of the women involved in the lawsuit spoke to NBC News about their allegations, telling the network that leaders at the training academy made them feel powerless.

“It became very clear that there were people that they considered that needed to be watched, and that group would have majority females,” one of the women who filed the lawsuit, Paula Bird, told NBC. “You’re in that group that, ‘You don’t know what you’re doing, you’re not very good, and we’re going to watch every move you make because we’re expecting you to fail.'”

The FBI did not immediately respond to INSIDER’s request for comment.

The women describe a culture of discrimination at Quantico

FBI recruits train to subdue a person after being sprayed with pepper spray at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia. For many, it is the worst day of training.
The Washington Post/Jahi Chikwendiu via Getty Images

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The lawsuit alleged that instructors and supervisors frequently used “sexual and gender-based stereotypes,” writing up women for lacking “emotional maturity” or reprimanding women for “lacking professionalism” when they attempted to call out biased behavior.

It also alleged that women were criticized for being “insubordinate” or “lacking accountability” if they tried to stand up for their beliefs, whereas their male peers were frequently praised for demonstrating a “command presence.”

The lawsuit also alleged that male trainees were given multiple chances and advantages that their female peers were denied, such as being allowed to retake tactical exams.

“The FBI has intentionally allowed the Good Old Boy Network to flourish unrestrained at the FBI academy,” the lawsuit said. “Training Division staff, including instructors, supervisors, field counselors, managers, and review board members, frequently dismiss mistakes made by male trainees as isolated incidents, determine male trainees to be retrainable, and retain them at the Academy at a disproportionately higher rate than their female trainee counterparts.”

The lawsuit specifically calls out James Comey

Former FBI Director James Comey speaks to reporters after testifying under subpoena behind closed doors before the House Judiciary and Oversight Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, Dec. 7, 2018.
Associated Press/Manuel Balce Ceneta

A number of former FBI officials were named in the report, including former FBI Director James Comey, who one of the women accused of brushing off her complaint that she was dismissed from training after working for the agency for more than five years.

Comey responded to the woman in an email included within the lawsuit, saying he would not question the leaders at the training academy who had dismissed her.

Instead, he urged her to “stare hard at the situation and what it teaches you, especially about your strengths and weaknesses.”

Watch an interview with the women below:

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