In the wake of the Secret Service prostitution scandal, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), a former chair of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, called on Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan to move aggressively to give women more opportunities for employment and promotion in the agency, where women now make up only 11 percent of the workforce. She said she believes it is significant that the heroes of two recent scandals were women. Paula Reid, the highest ranking woman in the Secret Service, and Susan Brita, Deputy Administrator of the General Services Administration (GSA), put a halt to scandals at their agencies. Reid lost no time sending an entire unit home at the first sign of the prostitution scandal in Cartagena, Colombia. Brita, an administration appointee, went to the GSA Inspector General when she heard rumors of over-spending by the Western Region at the GSA.
Norton said, "There is no vaccine against improper conduct except a person's own integrity. However, the actions by the agents in Colombia are one more important reason for Director Sullivan and the Secret Service to go beyond the usual visits to colleges and other outreach that has clearly been ineffective in integrating the 90 percent male Secret Service agent workforce. Today, there are women who not only meet the necessary qualifications to be agents but who have chosen to live their lives no differently from the men who now serve, just as women in the Armed Services do."
"Reid and Brita are first class professionals, whose high ethical and moral standards are not a function of their gender," Norton said. "Still, their instincts to move so quickly were almost surely reinforced by the strength of character and fortitude it took for both to rise to high positions that are not typical for women as yet. If there was a good old boys' network, or a go along to get along culture, Reid and Brita were not a part of it."
Norton knows Brita well because, until recently, she was staff director of the subcommittee with jurisdiction over the GSA, where Norton is ranking member. Norton said that she was not surprised by Brita's initiative. As staff director, Norton depended on Brita not only for her keen knowledge of the subject matter, but also of the many ethical restrictions and issues that are a part of GSA's work in leasing and construction, and the restraints imposed within the Congress.
Norton has never met Reid but noted her no-nonsense reputation and reported rise through the ranks despite resentment from some of her male peers. The Congresswoman said that the Secret Service needs more Paula Reids, male and female, with the fearless integrity to keep to the high standards required of them, whatever the distractions.