It’s still a man’s world inside the intelligence community, according to a ‘small but vocal’ group of female whistleblowers from the FBI. They’re alleging discrimination in the ranks, and have garnered the ear of Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles Grassley. He asked the director of the FBI about the discrimination in a hearing last year, and now one female FBI agent is telling her story to NPR.

Robyn Gritz dedicated years to the Bureau, investigating national security threats and battling al Qaeda and the Taliban. Gritz described herself as passionate about fighting terror with a strong desire to make a difference. But she went from investigating terror threats to selling blush and lipstick at a Macy’s after being accused of fraud on her timecard. Accusations she denies. Even if the timecard were an issue, male agents, she argued, had gotten by with far worse with no reprimand.

Equal Punishment Under the Law?

In her 15 years with the FBI, Gritz received outstanding performance reviews. But in the midst of a hostile divorce and a work detail to the CIA, the FBI began to question her hours. The Bureau also reprimanded her for an inappropriate email to a former boyfriend and for missing a 7:15 a.m. meeting. Gritz’s argument is that her male counterparts could face far worse accusations and receive no punishment, while she lost her job and her security clearance.

“I had given up a marriage, I had given up 16 years of my life of anniversaries, birthdays, weddings, special events, Christmas, all of the holidays,” Gritz says. “I had dedicated my life to protecting the people of the United States … and then I was not protected and I felt it was because I was a strong female.”

Gritz hopes to ensure other agents are assessed based on their credentials and not their personal life. She has strong support, with retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, calling Gritz one of the ‘bright lights and shining stars’ of the U.S.’s earliest efforts to meld law enforcement and military intelligence efforts.

The FBI whistleblower accusations mirror the results of a recent survey, where 83 percent of female respondents said they had witnessed discrimination or experienced it first-hand. Female respondents said it wasn’t necessarily blatant discrimination that was the issue, but a system that favored males for promotions and treated female professionals differently. Survey respondents also said discrimination isn’t unique to the defense industry – those who have worked in the private sector noted discrimination is an issue there, as well. As for former FBI agent Robyn Gritz, an inspector general is investigating Gritz’s allegations, as her case moves through the equal opportunity system.

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Jillian Hamilton has worked in a variety of Program Management roles for multiple Federal Government contractors. She has helped manage projects in training and IT. She received her Bachelors degree in Business with an emphasis in Marketing from Penn State University and her MBA from the University of Phoenix.