The CIA Tried to Recruit Women With These 'Empowering' Posters
Women are “intimidated by the secretive, aloof image of the CIA and do not understand anything about the internal environment of the agency or the agency’s culture,” apparently.
One of the CIA recruitment posters, retrieved by a FOI request from Runa Sandvik
Even the CIA needs a recruitment strategy. The infamous US intelligence agency has released a cache of posters designed to convince women to apply for jobs, in response to a Freedom of Information request by security researcher Runa Sandvik.
"Your individuality makes America stronger," one poster starts. "Strengthened by your uniqueness. Empowered by your potential," adds another skincare advert. I mean, CIA poster.
In something that looks like a bad Da Vinci Code bootleg, "Discover The Truth..." is plastered across the top of one advert, above a woman standing in what appears to be a sewer.
The posters also legitimately push the idea that diversity is a good counter against groupthink, and include images of African American men as well as women. "Our mission depends on different views. Because nothing in the world is the same."
Sandvik also obtained documents laying out how the CIA came up with these posters. Part of the reasoning was to counter women's supposed perceptions of the agency. At this point, the CIA goes into full-on patronising mode.
"The target has some familiarity with the CIA, but most knowledge is superficial and stereotypical. In general, women believe the CIA is full of spies and white men in suits who are reserved, but intelligent," a document entitled "CIA TARGET SEGMENT OVERVIEW—WOMEN," confidently states.
These women are apparently "intimidated by the secretive, aloof image of the CIA and do not understand anything about the internal environment of the agency or the agency's culture," the document adds. But the CIA concedes it's not just women that are to blame; it has not been that transparent to them. The document says female recruiters might be better at talking to women about the agency.
The documents also suggest many of these women could be deterred by fears that the job would be intrusive on their family life, a perception that you have to make a lifetime commitment to the agency, and the need to relocate to Washington DC, amongst other things.
In a section called "Impact of Research on Advertising Development," the CIA writes that "the target appreciates an ad campaign that speaks to working mothers and emphasizes work/life balance issues, which are particularly important to many women."
But it adds that it's important not to alienate younger women: "The CIA might consider developing separate ad campaigns for younger and older female prospects. Women have different needs and expectations for a job and a career depending on their age and life-stage, which are difficult to capture in a single advertisement."
You can judge for yourself: All the released posters and documents are hosted here.