When it comes to fieldwork, writes Rachele’ Davis of New Hope Investigations, female investigators have a few natural advantages.
Females vs. Males: It’s Not a Competition.
Nobody knows for sure how many female private investigators there are in the U.S. (Estimates vary and are difficult to confirm.) But one thing is plain to see: This industry draws more men than women. There’s no arguing that we female PIs are somewhat rare.
I’m not sure why more women don’t become private eyes, because we can make outstanding investigators. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying that every female would be a great private investigator, or that men are somehow less cut out for the work than we are. Not at all. The intent of this article is not to bash male private investigators or somehow convince readers that female investigators are superior.
Instead, I mean only to highlight the assets women can bring to the profession—and the stereotypes female investigators should exploit to their advantage:
Females are underestimated.
The first stereotype we women investigators can turn to our benefit is that all too often, nobody expects us to be any good at this work. When I transitioned from teaching—a female-dominated field—to law enforcement, then private investigations, I saw a 180-degree shift in how I was treated. I went from being an accepted majority (in terms of gender) to a curiosity. I was often one of few females, if not the only woman, on the job. People didn’t know what to expect from me. And many times, it seemed that they didn’t expect much.
I was OK with that. Being underestimated is actually one of my favorite aspects of working in a male-dominated industry: Feeling like the underdog just makes me fight harder. And there’s nothing more fun than coming out of nowhere without warning and impressing the heck out of people who’ve discouraged or discounted me.
An unassuming female can disappear in ways that males can’t.
Being underestimated can also be a big advantage in the field: Nobody expects that the woman sitting on the park bench reading a book with a “baby” in her stroller might actually be working undercover.
This means we can kill it on surveillance. Male investigators might get “made” more easily because they automatically stick out as suspicious or threatening, whereas a female investigator might be ignored altogether simply for being female. She goes overlooked and undetected. That changes the game and makes a woman on surveillance nearly unburnable.
I grew up as an unassuming middle child, number three in a group of four. My siblings were louder and more outgoing than I was. I was the invisible girl in the background—all-seeing, all-knowing, and my parents’ built in secret weapon.
My adult siblings remember me as a bit of a tattletale. I like to call it pre-job training. It’s served me well.
Many people see women as less threatening.
Female investigators typically arouse less suspicion than their male counterparts do. We are often perceived as less of a threat or no threat at all.
Some of my own family members and friends still giggle at the thought of me being a private investigator. Even the people who know me best can’t take the thought seriously. This is a huge advantage when, for example, I approach a house cold to interview a witness. The bottom line is that most people just aren’t as alarmed when the person who shows up on the porch unannounced is female. They’re more likely to open the door, and (I’ve found) more likely to let me in.
It is important for an interviewer to gain rapport and trust with an interviewee. While this isn’t true across the board, I think it’s often a bit easier for women to quickly disarm someone and put them at ease, during in-person interviews and over the phone.
Some of my own family members and friends still giggle at the thought of me being a private investigator.
Again, not to trade on stereotypes, but interviews are the perfect opportunity for women to exercise their talents for communication and empathy—or at the very least, to take advantage of the widespread perception that women are empathetic listeners and great communicators: If people believe women are better at getting people to open up about tough personal issues, it may nudge them toward actually opening up and talking more freely.
Are women actually more empathetic? That’s tough to measure. But in my experience, being able to relate to someone can be a huge plus in getting them to talk. As an adoptive parent myself, I know just how my clients who are seeking adoption-related services may be feeling. That has given me a great advantage with adoptees, adoptive parents, birth parents, records clerks, and others with whom I communicate while I’m working on an adoption case.
That doesn’t mean that women can relate to all people in all situations. But think of it this way: Having a female PI on your team can certainly broaden the variety of relatable experiences your company brings to the table.
Moms know how to get **** done.
There’s no doubt that managing a family and a business has taught me to use my time and resources efficiently. Organization and the ability to multi-task are two additional areas that serve private investigators very well. I cannot tell you how valuable it has been for me to organize my caseload, run a business, write a blog, regularly communicate with my clients, market my business, and everything else necessary as both a private investigator and small business owner.
In fact, I would venture to say that organization and multitasking have probably been the two most important characteristics that have contributed to my success as a private investigator. Without them, I would constantly be struggling to keep up with it all.
To all the women out there dreaming of becoming private investigators, I say, go for it! If I’ve learned anything from starting this business, it’s that we can be good at this job, earn our clients’ trust and our colleagues’ respect, and fit very well into this exciting, rewarding field. Just because some folks don’t expect to see us here doesn’t mean we don’t belong.
About the author:
Rachele’ Davis became a licensed private investigator in Missouri and Kansas in 2016, then launched her one-woman agency, New Hope Investigations. She specializes in locating and researching people through social media and open source investigations and has a personal interest in adoption searches.