On breaking into Customs
I started with the Customs in 1971 as a customer security officer. Most people remember it as a sky marshal. In other words, I was hired to ride airplanes and keep them safe from hijackers. And I was hired in 1971, just as the government changed its attitude toward women in law enforcement. Prior to an Executive Order in January of 1971, women could not carry weapons in the federal service. And so it was changed by Executive Order and then Customs actually was the first federal agency to hire women in that capacity.
On changing the culture
When women started out in the federal sector, in law enforcement positions, there were so many stories floating around. How could you possibly be [out] on surveillance with a female? People would question whether or not you were actually watching the event. Could a woman actually handle a gun? Would she back you up in [a raid or] some other enforcement activity?
But that was 1971 and this is now. Women have been in a number of situations over the years that have proven the fact that they can handle the job just as well as their male counterparts. I think itís important to the women. I think itís a credibility issue. I think you canít become a manager unless youíve done the job. People who think they can skip the rungs of the ladder are sadly mistaken.
On law enforcement management
The biggest challenge...was getting through the glass ceiling. When I became a special agent in charge and had to go out on my own to manage an officer for the very first time, in a state like Florida, where the entire law enforcement community...were all male, I knew they hadnít encountered anybody who was female in their upper-level management or their command staffs...The initial challenge was just being able to communicate with males in law enforcement and get my agencyís mission accomplished. We were very successful at that.
On breaking the glass ceiling
Women are becoming first-line supervisors. They are becoming second-line management. They are becoming executives. Almost all of the agencies have female Special Agents in Charge (SAC) right now. And I just think the atmosphere is different [now, compared to the 1970s].
On remaining issues
I think there are things that still have not changed for me. Mostly, if Iím at a meeting, itís 99.9 percent male...I think in terms of seeing women as policy makers, not too much has changed...I think weíll see an incremental change over the next five years or so. But itís a density problem. The more women there are, the more women in the chain, the more women in the pipeline and so forth.
On the Interagency Committee on Women in Law Enforcement
I had a concept in 1977 that was based on meeting a number of women who were in federal law enforcement positions. Women had come on in 1971. Here they were and it was six years later, and they werenít getting anywhere. Some of them had problems with the traditional problems you would associate with a job thatís a 24-hour-job, and things like day care, getting married, having a date. But the bottom line is that they were all having significant problems in terms of details, training, and getting promoted.
A friend of mine was running the Womenís Bureau over at what is now the Officer of Personnel Management, and we had known each other through the Federal Womenís Program for a number of years. So, I went over [to the Office of Personnel Management]. I gathered some of the more senior people I knew in some of the other agencies. And we put a committee together that was based on exploring why women were having obstacle problems within the criminal investigation area. Now itís expanded to any law enforcement position within the realm of federal law enforcement. They did a survey, talked to women, and saw what their problems were. It was training details, getting promoted. So, it was called the Interagency Committee on Women in Law Enforcement.
On leadership style
I am very forthright, and I used to think that there were only two ways you could actually survive within the federal sector in any job. And that was to either be so far out in front that nobody could touch you or so Machiavellian that nobody could find you. And I never managed to achieve Machiavellian status. So...Iíve developed a reputation for honesty and being out front and pretty much telling it like it is.
On role models
My role models were all male. Because they were in a command-and-control atmosphere back then, I followed suit. Now, when I tried to do some of the things that the fellows were doing...it didnít work for me. So, I fell back and regrouped and said, ĎAll right, theyíre not going to let me be a woman, but on the other hand, I donít have to bel like them, either.í So, I had to develop m own way of doing things.
Advice for future leaders
I think they really need to think about what skill sets theyíre going to have to acquire. And theyíre going to have to go after the training or developmental courses that they need to really understand budget and resource management. And they need conflict resolution and soft skills that they may not otherwise get. So, rolled into a nutshell, theyíve got to manage their careers.
On the tools of the trade
Letís just talk about non-intrusive technology, like x-ray machines, or any one of the targeting devices that weíre using so that we donít have to search your luggage or search your person or search your cargo. And weíll be able just to either sniff it or look through it and be able to see if, in fact, thereís contraband there, in a timely manner, and then release it.
On the move to a paperless environment
...the ultimate will be a peerless environment...weíd like to go totally paperless; thatís where weíre going, and weíre being buried in paper right now. If [our current system] goes down, we donít know how long it would take us to dig out of the paperwork after a week...and I think itís absolutely imperative that we have an outstanding system to provide outstanding service for our trade partners.
On the workforce impact of technology
I think [that] the types of jobs that we have will probably change to some extent...as more automaton comes on...maybe our mix of actual jobs will change. But there may come a time when employee jobs will have to be converted to other positions...I think itís going to present a real challenge to get the right mix of people and to be able to acquire the resources...to continue our lay-down of automation.
On the impact of technology on customs agents
Agents will have to become more and more knowledgeable about how to utilize the various databases...the computers have completely changed the complexion of law enforcement from a criminal investigations perspective.