CIA girls tricked sexist male colleagues to get ahead

Eloise Site experienced a master’s diploma in political science from George Washington College, but when she started her occupation at the CIA’s predecessor, the Workplace of Strategic Providers (OSS), in 1942, it was as a secretary.

Website page labored for OSS head ‘Wild Bill’ Donovan, and in her secretarial purpose she came to discover every little thing about him and other key players at the agency.

“I experienced the merchandise on him, and I played it for all it was well worth,” she’s quoted as declaring in “The Sisterhood: The Top secret Historical past of Girls at the CIA” (Crown).

The new e book by author Liza Mundy depicts how ladies in intelligence have had to endure rampant sexism and misogyny for many years — and how some cunning gals, like Site, utilised it to their benefit.

As previous agent Jonna Mendez spelled out to Mundy: “You could appear in with a master’s diploma in French, and they would set you into the typing pool … [And] the to start with career was to get out of the typing pool.” 

But, Mundy writes, “Secretaries did a lot additional than sort … They drafted correspondence and took calls from bosses’ colleagues, wives, young children, mistresses, enemies, and good friends.

Eloise Page made use of what she realized as a secretary to advance in the CIA.
Page labored for OSS head ‘Wild Bill’ Donovan.
Bettmann Archive

“They knew who was offended with whom and who was undermining whom and who was having sexual intercourse at lunchtime with a lady not his wife. A person previous secretary recalled that she paid all her boss’s costs, ‘wrote his mom a letter each and every 7 days,’ and knew how significantly he used on remedy classes.”

While Web page was initially relegated to a classic woman job regardless of her high stage of training, she employed the access to data she experienced as secretary to manipulate colleagues for her very own development.

She memorized documents on most persons at the company and, crucially, she also experienced shots. “Meaning: incriminating shots,” writes Mundy.

But Site also performed the guys at their individual video game. After the CIA was set up in 1947, Webpage went on to turn out to be the optimum rating feminine officer in the clandestine functions support.

A new ebook examines the sexism women of all ages faced in the CIA — and how they overcame it.

“Apart from realizing secrets, the essential to her improvement was making herself unpleasant,” writes Mundy. A fellow agent, Lee Coyle, tells Mundy: “She scared some of these guys to demise. They ended up scared to go into her business.” 

In the earth of espionage, intercourse was a important weapon in any agent’s armory and married girls, unlike male agents, weren’t as predisposed to infidelity, a trait which gave them leverage in opposition to targets but also fellow officers prone to wandering.

Tracy Barnes, a single of the early architects of the CIA’s clandestine operations, when stated that men be a part of the CIA for the reason that “they crave consistent danger and for the sex” — a hunger that did not normally provide them in the area.

Other agents, like Lisa Manful, applied classic female traits, this sort of as empathy and psychological intelligence, to acquire more than resources and get facts.

Lisa Manfull used her femininity to her gain.
Courtesy of Lisa Manfull Harper

For people girls who could endure the rampant sexism at the CIA, there were chances.

Jonna Mendez, for occasion, enrolled on many education applications, even nevertheless it was not seriously the performed matter for ladies.

She took courses in defensive driving, escape and evasion and shooting.

On a pictures instruction course, meanwhile, she observed herself hanging out of plane with a very long lens 35mm digicam just to grasp new spying approaches.

It was an unorthodox solution but one particular that noticed her became the real-lifestyle version of Q in the James Bond novels, developing spy gizmos like tiny cameras and concealed microphones and teaching officers how to use them. 

“They just did not think a girl could operate an procedure,” claims Mendez in the book. “They did not assume a woman could start an procedure.” 

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