THE HISTORIAN SPOTLIGHT | THE FEW....THE PROUD: THE WOMEN OF THE FBI NATIONAL ACADEMY
BY CINDY REED
As your Historian, I am taking this opportunity to give the background on a National Conference networking option that recently celebrated its 20th anniversary. This event is one that is near and dear to my heart.
After being elected as the first woman to the Washington Chapter Executive Board, our Chapter’s NA coordinator asked me to determine why so many women graduates didn’t join our Chapter after their return from Quantico. I arranged several luncheons to discuss this issue with our Chapter’s women graduates. I also planned to find other women at the National Conference to see if the same themes were repeating themselves in other chapters.
When I attended my first National Conference held in Las Vegas in 1995, I found that the vast majority of women at the conference were FBI agents and staff or female spouses of NA graduates. Most of these spouses were not in law enforcement. After looking through the list of attendees, I was able to locate only two other women graduates out of the 3,000 attendees of the conference.
As our Chapter began making plans to host the 1999 conference, and after I attended additional conferences leading up to the Seattle conference, I was struck by the same challenge of locating other women graduates in these large events. I found that at the end of 1999, there were 956 women out of the 33,979 total graduates (just under 3%). This confirmed that selection to the National Academy appears to be even more of a privilege and a point of pride for women graduates. In discussions with other chapter officers, I found there was a common frustration in getting women graduates to become chapter members after graduation. I also heard women graduates wishing their chapter were more open to endorsing networking opportunities to share issues and to help create solutions for the unique situations women face in order to perform well in a male-oriented profession.
It was from this seed that the idea began to have a separate networking event at the National Conference to allow women graduates to meet each other, discuss our unique Academy and law enforcement experiences, and serve as mentors to encourage other women to consider submitting an application to attend the National Academy. While there was initial resistance to what was perceived as creating an exclusive women’s event, it was eventually allowed under the assumption that it would support one of the important goals of the NA: increasing membership. It was made clear at the time that it was expected this event could not detract from the conference training and that it had to be self-supporting as were the networking activities of golf and the 5K fun run.
The first networking event, a breakfast, was held in Seattle in 1999. Our guest speaker was true crime writer Ann Rule, a former Seattle police officer who had written a book on Ted Bundy called The Stranger Beside Me. Just over 60 women graduates attended, in addition to several women spouses who requested to attend to listen to the speaker. The event was judged a big success by all of the NA graduates! They were encouraged to go back and become active in their own chapters and encourage other lapsed members to renew their memberships.
The format for this event has evolved over the past 20 years. Initially, the event was conducted as a VERY early breakfast that must end before 8AM because there was such tight oversight and insistence that it could not interfere with any of the other planned activities. Eventually it evolved into a brunch/lunch scheduled early in the conference which required attendees to arrive early to allow them to attend. In 2015, when the conference returned to Seattle, attendance had risen to over 100. The highest total attendance was the 2011 conference held in Long Beach. It also had the highest number of men attending (hint: the guest speaker was Sharon Stone).
This event is not directed exclusively to women. Men who are interested in learning how to mentor or be mentored across gender lines or who wish to gain a deeper understanding of the challenges faced by law enforcement women have been encouraged to add their perspective to the event.
Since 1999, there has been an event for Women Graduates at every National Conference except the 2001 conference held in Charlotte, North Carolina.
St. Louis, 2016
The percentage of women graduates has grown from when statistics began to be tracked:
· 2.4% in 1997 (746 out of 30,785 graduates) to
· 3.79% at the 75th anniversary held in 2010 (1,641 out of 43,229 total).
· 4.3% (2,237 out of 51,518 total graduates) at the 20th anniversary of the Women Graduates Networking Event (WGNE) in Phoenix during 2019
For many years there were more international graduates, including women, than women graduates alone.
The history of women having the honor to be selected to attend the National Academy goes back to Session 91 in 1972 when the first two women were selected – Victoria Renzullo from NYPD and Ann Schrader from St. Croix, Virgin Islands. The number of women attending the NA is slowly increasing. Washington State, especially Seattle P.D., was a pioneer for selecting women to attend, specifically:
· Karen Eide, Seattle PD (#94),
· Beryl Thompson, Seattle PD (#95),
· Noreen Skagen, Seattle PD (#96),
· Nina Vereb, Yakima PD (#97) and
· Joann Cratty, King County S.O. (#98).
These women are believed to have been among the first ten woman to attend the NA. I am proud to say the Washington Chapter continues to enjoy an above average percentage of 10.5% women in our chapter and challenges other chapters to match this percentage!
Any suggestions about profiles, articles, local history, please contact me at Creed@fbinaa.org
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