Regina Lombardo knows policing works best when officers reflect the communities they serve — and in that case, the Department of Justice had a big problem.
“My passion is cultivating a diverse and inclusive workforce,” she told Guns.com this week. “But we only average between 11 percent and 12 percent females. If I can’t make change, as the highest ranking woman in the organization, who can?”
Lombardo serves as the associate deputy director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Over the last 28 years, she’s busted gun traffickers and drug dealers in Miami, Tampa, New York and at the Canadian border — and through it all, she’s watched fellow women fail to advance in the agency, despite a desperate need for their representation in the field.
“We lose women throughout their journey,” she said. “I’m very mindful of this and figuring out how I can help them take on a leadership role, despite the long hours and personal sacrifice.”
A federal report released in June concluded women across the DOJ perceived a glass ceiling — of sorts — and struggled to break free from support roles in finance and human resources. Although comprising more than a third of the department’s entire workforce, less than 16 percent of investigators in the field are women. Fewer still hold leadership positions, according to the report.
Frank Kelsey, ATF’s deputy chief of public and governmental affairs, said the agency began tackling this issue long before the report came out — with Lombardo organizing diverse focus groups in November 2017 to identify the roadblocks — including child rearing and work-life balance — currently discouraging women.
“You can’t be what you don’t see,” Lombardo said. “What I heard very loud and clear was women felt like they weren’t being represented.”
So the ATF went to work revamping advertising and recruitment images with women front and center. Soon, #SheIsATF was born. Lombardo didn’t stop there, however. Focus groups also helped build new recruitment strategies targeting women at military academies, in athletic programs and even Fortune 500 companies.
“We wanted to branch out beyond those in law enforcement who already follow us and know us,” she said. “And we want to tap into their desire to make a difference.”‘
As the campaign makes its rounds on social media, Lombardo said she isn’t concerned with hitting a percentage goal, per se. “I get a little bit uncomfortable when I hear a number,” she said. “I’d love to get that 30 percent, but my ultimate goal is to make law enforcement look like the community they serve. It’s vital to fair and impartial policing.”