Women in PI Work: Part I

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Advantages of a Female Private Investigator

When it comes to selecting a private investigator, we are all so hung up with the male bastion that we forget that a woman can excel as private investigators and possibly in some situations even more so than men.

Perhaps we have pre-conceived ideas of a private investigator as a male. You might blame this on detective books and movies. Mostly what we have read and seen in films or TV are extremely smart, swanky, not to mention attractive men playing the roles of investigators.  Women are often relegated to the background playing the private assistant or a sexy companion at best. The other popular perception is that of honey trappers who have been known to use their charms to expose cheating husbands.

At Indonesia Private Investigation Agency and Bali Eye Private Investigation Agency use a range of agents and will pick and choose between women and men depending on the case at hand. Sometimes men are ideal, and at other times women make the best choice.

A Growing Presence of Women Private Investigators

When it comes to the real world where private investigation is a profession like any other, women are doing exceedingly well. Even till about a decade ago only 15 per cent of private investigators in the developed nations were women, but over the past few years there has been a sea change with a number of women joining this profession.

UK especially deserves a special mention because it has seen a rise of 86 per cent in the number of female private investigators over the last ten years or so.  Not to mention Indonesia where IPIA, as one of the first Private Investigation Agencies, was started by a woman and still uses many female agents.

The Gender Advantage in Private Investigation Work

Hiring a private investigator typically means that you are going through a situation that is difficult to understand and often extremely sensitive.

I have read some argue that a woman often has a way with words and thus makes for a better communicator. The argument follows that women are ideally suited to give a patient ear to the problems of their clients and take a more sympathetic approach. It is also claimed that women also have a natural ability to put people at ease with their presence, so both clients and people being investigated seem to trust them better.

I have also read that women seem to bring to the profession natural abilities to network. A woman also can have better access to information because they have a larger access to people and places.

In one article I came across recently I read that PI agencies that are hiring women as private investigators see women as having a clear advantage as they have better abilities to multitask and unlike men, do not find it difficult to suppress their egos in order to attain their set goals. As a claim that seems a little over the top to me and there was certainly no scientific evidence offered. Finally, the article argued, to use a cliché, there is seldom a substitute for a woman’s intuition which more often than not can be a clincher when it comes to solving the most complex of cases.

Another common theme I have come across regards the fact that many of an investigator’s targets are cheating men. So the client is generally a woman. So the argument goes that a woman dealing with a woman can establish trust more easily. When it comes to female clients, another woman can repose their trust in a woman in good faith. The comfort factor with a woman is much more when it comes to investigating things like a premarital verification or a case of domestic infidelity.

All these arguments are difficult grounds to prove at least scientifically. Having said that from our experience there is certainly a growing comfort with our clients of using women and a number have specifically  asked for a female agent. Clients often seem to trust women more in some instances than their male counterparts.

For all the arguments put forth about the advantages and disadvantages of women agents I know of no scientific evidence to support an argument either way.  I would tend towards the opinion that possibly at the end of the day the difference between a man and a woman is mostly due to differences of character and not that of gender.

“Mostly” – I do believe there are some instances where, rightly or wrongly, gender makes a differences.

In terms of safety it is not unknown for agents to find themselves in some potentially threatening situations.

From our own experience there have been occasions where we have been approached by the bodyguard type of man. Possibly (probably) being a woman reduced any threat of a more physically violent confrontation.

It is very difficult to be 100% sure that gender played a role here. However, what I can say for sure is that whilst all our female PIs have found themselves in potentially violent situations none have ever had violence done to them. Our male agents on the other hand have. I have no scientific evidence if this difference is due to gender, but I do know for sure it is a fact.

It is a sad fact, but I do believe this, that everyone without exception has prejudice of some kind.

Indeed the following illustration may not be true but I appreciate the point being made. In the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles there are, apparently, two doors to enter through. One door has a sign over it reading “Enter here if you are without prejudice”. The second door has a sign over it reading “Enter here if you have prejudice”. This is the first lesson of the museum – the door “without prejudice” is locked.

I recall once at school being told the following “riddle”: a man, who is a doctor, is driving his son to school. They have a car accident and the man dies. The young boy, the son, has a severe head injury and is rushed to the hospital for emergency treatment. He needs instant surgery on his skull. The brain surgeon walks into the operating theatre and seeing the patient says “Oh My God. It’s my son”.

The question is “what is the relationship between the boy and the brain surgeon”? The answer, if you do not know, is at the end of this article. Most people get the answer eventually but I have never known anyone to jump to it immediately.

I would argue that the pre-conception and prejudice of a man as an investigator can be turned to an advantage for a woman. Many cases require surveillance  and people would be less likely to suspect a woman as targeting them, making the woman private investigator more inconspicuous.

To finish – the relationship between the boy and brain surgeon? The surgeon is of course the mother.

Indonesia Private Investigation Agency (IPIA) and our sister agency Bali Eye Private Investigation Agency (BEPIA) are fully registered agencies offering investigation services to the private and business sectors throughout Indonesia and South East Asia.


About the Author

IPIA's Director of Investigations is an Indonesian national with a Diploma in PI work (with distinction) from the UK and an Australian Government accredited Certificate in Investigative Services. She has worked on over 400 cases for private and business clients.