From an FBI criminal profiler to a White House cybersecurity specialist to an editor-in-chief of a top criminal justice journal, our list of influential women in criminal justice highlights a group of professionals whose intellect, understanding of human behavior and law, and innovative problem-solving skills have served to better protect us all.
Top 10 Women in Criminal Justice From the Last 10 Years
Those who pursue careers in criminal justice often have a knack for good communication, a love of research, a passion for understanding the inner workings of human behaviors, and an appreciation for the law. Careers in this field are both broad and specific, with some going on to become professors, police officers, and private investigators and others serving as criminal profilers, crime prevention specialists, niche authors, and forensic scientists. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, job growth in this field is promising. For example, career opportunities for forensic scientists are expected to grow at a rate of 16% between now and 2030, much faster than the average for all jobs, and private investigators can expect a 13% rate of growth between now and 2030.
A bachelor’s degree in criminal justice educates students on the primary components of the justice system: the courts, policing, and corrections. Students also spend time refining their researching skills, studying criminal psychology, and familiarizing themselves with theories of criminal justice. Many programs also offer specializations, like law enforcement or forensic science. Although the number of women and men who hold a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice is comparable, far more women hold master’s-level degrees than men in areas like forensic science and technology, police science, and criminology.
With so many women in criminal justice holding graduate degrees, organizations like the International Association of Women Police (IAWP) are striving to ensure career opportunities for female professionals are ample. The IAWP envisions a world where police reflect the diversity of the communities they serve and where human rights are protected and therefore are steadfast in their work to strengthen, unite, and raise the capacity of women in policing internationally.
It’s clear too, by the trailblazers on our list, that given the opportunity, female professionals in this field can and do excel in leadership roles. Colleen M. Fitzpatrick is a PhD holder and a forensic genealogist who co-founded the DNA Doe Project, which identifies unidentified deceased individuals through genetic genealogy. Candice DeLong is a bestselling author and former FBI profiler who has helped crack cases like the Unabomber and has worked undercover in a variety of roles. Freda Adler has put her skills to use as a criminologist and professor and is the former President of the American Society of Criminology. Melissa Hathaway is best known for her expertise in cybersecurity and her service to the White House under both President Barack Obama and President George W. Bush. Also on the list is Mary Francesca Bosworth, an Australian criminologist, author, professor, and the UK editor-in-chief of the journal Theoretical Criminology.
Influential Women in Criminal Justice From the Last 10 Years
Freda Adler is a criminologist and educator, currently serving as Professor Emeritus at Rutgers University and a visiting professor at the University of Pennsylvania. She was President of the American Society of Criminology in 1994-1995. She has acted as a consultant to the United Nations on criminal justice matters since 1975, holding various roles within United Nations organizations. A prolific writer, Adler has published in a variety of criminological areas, including female criminality, international issues in crime, piracy, drug abuse, and social control theories.
Xanthé Danielle Mallett is a Scottish forensic anthropologist, criminologist and television presenter. She specialises in human craniofacial biometrics and hand identification, and behaviour patterns of paedophiles, particularly online. She is a senior lecturer at the University of Newcastle in Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia.
Colleen M. Fitzpatrick is an American scientist and entrepreneur. She helped identify remains found in the crash site of Northwest Flight 4422, that crashed in Alaska in 1948, and co-founded the DNA Doe Project which identifies previously unidentified bodies and runs Identifinders International, an investigative genetic genealogy consulting firm which helps identify victims and perpetrators of violent crimes.
Candice DeLong is a former FBI criminal profiler and bestselling author. DeLong was the lead profiler in San Francisco, California, and worked on the Unabomber case. Currently, she hosts the Investigation Discovery programs Deadly Women and Facing Evil with Candice DeLong and the Wondery podcast Killer Psyche.
Carol Christine Smart is a feminist sociologist and academic at the University of Manchester. She has also conducted research about divorce and children of divorced couples.
Smart is an important figure within the feminist criminology world. Her book titled Women, Crime and Criminology, written in 1976, remains a key feminist critique of criminology. Smart was also the co-director of the Morgan Centre for the Study of Relationships and Personal Life at Manchester.
Mary Francesca Bosworth is the UK Editor-in-Chief of the journal Theoretical Criminology, a Professor of Criminology at the University of Oxford, and a Professor of Social Sciences from Monash University. She studied the arts at the University of Western Australia before earning an M.Phil and a doctorate in criminology from the University of Cambridge.
Susanne Karstedt is a German criminologist. She is a professor in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Griffith University in Queensland, Australia.
A native of Germany, Kartstedt trained in sociology at the University of Hamburg. Prior to joining Griffith University, she held positions at the University of Leeds, Keele University, Bielefield University, and the University of Hamburg.
Sandra Walklate is a British criminologist. She is the Eleanor Rathbone Chair of Sociology at the University of Liverpool and President of the British Society of Criminology. In January 2014, she became the Editor in Chief of The British Journal of Criminology.
Catharina Christina Johanna Hermina “Catrien” Bijleveld is a Dutch criminologist. She is a professor of Research Methods in Criminology at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. Since August 2014 she is director of the Netherlands Institute for the Study of Crime and Law Enforcement.
Cassia Spohn earned her B.A. in journalism and political science, and her M.A. and Ph.D in political science, from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln.
Spohn has published over 100 works on topics such as impacts of gender and race on sentencing, and sexual assault. In collaboration with Katharine Tellis, she published Policing and Prosecuting Sexual Assault: Inside the Criminal Justice System. She was awarded the W.E.B. DuBois Award for her research on race and ethnicity, the Faculty Achievement Award for Defining Edge Research in Social Sciences, and an Outstanding Research and Creative Activity Award. She is a fellow of the Western Society of Criminology and a Research Fellow for the University Committee on Research at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.
Semma Julissa Villanueva is the Director of the Honduras Public Prosecutor’s Office Forensic Medicine Department.
Julissa Villanueva was born in Tegucigalpa on May 12, 1972. She studied medicine after seeing her father suffering from tetanus, and is now a doctor who specialises in pathology. She chose to specialise in pathology when she heard about the shortage of skilled forensic scientists in Honduras.
Sofía Stefani Espinoza Álvarez is a Mexican-American author, researcher, and advocate. As a researcher and criminologist, she has participated in an intensive program of research aimed at providing readers with evidence-based information and analysis of the issues of Latinos in the United States.
Joan Ramme Petersilia was an American criminologist and the Adelbert H. Sweet Professor of Law at Stanford Law School, as well as the faculty co-director of the Stanford Criminal Justice Center.
Petersilia received her B.A. from Loyola Marymount University in 1972 in sociology, her M.A. from Ohio State University in 1974, also in sociology, and her Ph.D. from the University of California, Irvine in criminology, law & society in 1990.
Janet Lynn Lauritsen is an American criminologist and the Curators’ Distinguished Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of Missouri–St. Louis.
Education and career
Dr. Lauritsen received her B.A. , M.A. , and Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. After serving as a postdoctoral research associate at the University of Illinois , she joined the Department of Criminology & Criminal Justice at the University of Missouri-St. Louis as an Assistant Professor in 1990. She was promoted to Associate Professor with tenure in 1996 as well as to ...
Lorraine Mazerolle is chief investigator for the Australian Research Council's Centre of Excellence for Children and Families over the Life Course, editor-in-chief of the Journal of Experimental Criminology, affiliate professor at the Institute for Social Science Research, and professor at the School of Social Science at the University of Queensland. She earned a Ph.D. from Rutgers University.
Melissa Hathaway is a leading expert in cyberspace policy and cybersecurity. She served under two U.S. presidential administrations from 2007 to 2009, including more than 8 months at the White House, spearheading the Cyberspace Policy Review for President Barack Obama after leading the Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative for President George W. Bush. She is President of Hathaway Global Strategies LLC, a Senior Fellow and member of the Board of Regents at Potomac Institute for Policy Studies, a Distinguished Fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation in Canada, ...
Karlene Faith was a Canadian writer, feminist, scholar, and human rights activist. She was a professor emerita at the Simon Fraser University School of Criminology.
Early life and career
Karlene Faith was born in Aylsham, Saskatchewan in 1938. She is the oldest of six children and her father was a United Church Minister. After moving to a small town in Montana near a jail, Faith often witnessed police brutality.
Anne Morrison Piehl is an American economist and criminologist. She is a professor of economics at Rutgers University, the director of Rutgers’ Program in Criminal Justice, and a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research. She joined Rutgers as an associate professor in 2005, and became a full professor there in 2012. Also in 2012, she became a fellow of the IZA Institute of Labor Economics. In 2020, she was named to the James Cullen Chair in Economics, where she will serve a five-year term. She served on the New Jersey Committee on Government Efficiency and Reform Correct...
Ruth Delois Peterson is an American sociologist and criminologist known for her work on racial and ethnic inequality and crime. She earned her PhD in sociology from University of Wisconsin–Madison in 1983. Peterson is emerita professor of sociology at the Ohio State University, former director of the Criminal Justice Research Center , and former president of the American Society of Criminology . She is the namesake of the American Society of Criminology’s Ruth D. Peterson Fellowship for Racial and Ethnic Diversity.
Letizia Paoli is a criminologist, originally from Tuscany. Since 2006 she has been a professor of the Law Faculty at Leuven/Louvain University. She served, between 2009 and 2016, as chair of the sometimes troubled “Freiburg Sports Medicine Commission” at Freiburg University.
Nicole Leeper Piquero is Professor in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Miami. Prior to joining University of Miami, she was the Associate Provost for faculty development and program review and the Robert E. Holmes Jr. Professor of Criminology at the University of Texas at Dallas. She earned her B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. in criminology and criminal justice from the University of Maryland.
She has held faculty positions at the University of Florida, Florida State University's College of Criminology and Criminal Justice and Northeastern University.
She has been awarded several research grants to fund studies on a number of criminology concerns, including identity theft, policing, body cameras, white collar crime, intellectual property crime and community probation programs.
She is a member of the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences, the American Society of Criminology, and the National White-Collar Crime Research Consortium. She has written and co-written many peer-reviewed articles, including "Rationalizing the Fear of Falling? An Examination of Motivations of White-Collar Crime", "Does Morality Condition the Deterrent Effect of Perceived Certainty among Convicted Felons," and "Low Self-Control and the Desire for Control: An Empirical Test of White-Collar Crime and Conventional Crime".
Patricia Mayhew is a British criminologist and civil servant. She was formerly the Deputy Head of the Crime and Criminal Justice Unit at the Home Office in the United Kingdom, as well as the director of the Crime and Justice Research Centre at the Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand from 2004 to 2008. Her other positions include working at the National Institute of Justice in Washington, D. C., United States and the Australian Institute of Criminology in Canberra, Australia. She was one of the designers of the original International Crime Victims Survey in 1982, and managed the s...
Nicole Hahn Rafter was a feminist criminology professor at Northeastern University. She received her bachelor of arts degree from Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania, achieved her Master of Arts in Teaching from Harvard University, and obtained a Ph.D. in Criminal Justice from State University of New York in Albany. She began her career as a high school and college English professor and switched to criminal justice in her mid-thirties.
Terrie Moffitt was born in 1955 in Nuremberg, Germany. She earned her B.A. in Psychology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and her M.A. in experimental animal behavior and Ph.D in clinical psychology from the University of California, Los Angeles.
Moffitt is the author of multiple books, but she is most widely known for her research into antisocial behavior, adolescents, and later criminality, for which she was honored with the Stockholm Prize in Criminology. She is also known for her work examining gene-environment interaction, identifying a polymorphism in the MAOA gene that seems to have a correlative relationship with antisocial behavior in children, given an environment that is unhealthy. The Society of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology honored her with the Distinguished Career Award and she was selected to the National Academy of Medicine in 2018.
She is now the Nannerl O. Keohane University Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience at Duke University and Associate Director of the Dunedin Longitudinal Study. She is active in the Environmental-Risk Longitudinal Twin Study, a research initiative she helped launch. She is also a Professor of Social Behavior and Development in the Medical Research Council's Social, Genetic, and Developmental Psychiatry Center at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology, and Neuroscience.
Maureen Cain received her bachelor’s degree from London School of Economics in 1959, and she attained her PhD from the London School of Economics in 1969. After graduating from LSE, Cain became a professor.