Spotlight on Lisa Bailey

This month we have the pleasure of hearing from one of our original International Women of Porto and Gaia members, Lisa Bailey.

After a fascinating career with the FBI, Lisa has written a book about her experiences. Her book was released on 20 February this year and if you are interesting in a captivating read I can highly recommend you get a copy.

You can get a hard copy or kindle version from or all versions from

Interview with Lisa

Tell us about your career with the FBI

I started at the FBI two months after 9/11 and jumped right in working on graphic presentations for the prosecution of Zacarias Moussaoui, the suspected “20th hijacker.” Over the years I’ve documented crime scenes, created composite sketches of violent suspects, age progressed images of fugitives; everything from homicides to kidnapping to terrorism. But, by far, the work I loved doing the most was sculpting facial approximations from unidentified skulls. It was fascinating and very rewarding work, and I’m lucky to have had such an amazing job.

What is your book about?

“Clay and Bones” is an inside look at the day-to-day work of a forensic artist; the things you see on CSI and Bones, and wonder if any of it is true or possible. For instance, how are artists able to sculpt a face from a skull, or interview victims of crime and draw composite sketches. What’s it like working with actual human skulls or going to a crime scene?

When I started at the bureau I had never worked in forensics, so I had this very “gee whiz” mentality, like “I actually get to do the things I’ve seen on TV!” So, the reader is learning as I do, seeing and doing things for the first time and being amazed.

It also recounts the years-long battle I went through taking on the FBI after filing a complaint of discrimination and sexual harassment. The retaliation from the FBI was swift and vicious, with the intent of either bullying or bankrupting me into dropping my complaint, or fabricating charges against me as an excuse to pull my clearance and fire me. All I can say is, they picked the wrong person to threaten.

What did you enjoy about writing the book?

Realizing that I liked writing when there was something important to write about! In school I hated writing assignments and always put them off to the last minute. But this was different. It was like there was an invisible hand on my back constantly pushing me towards the computer. Sometimes I’d have a good day and the words would just flow. Other days it was just hours of staring at a blinking cursor. Or cat videos. But I did it and I’m proud of what I wrote.

What were the challenges?

After 18 years of working in forensics, you can sort of forget what ‘normal’ is, and I’d wonder what cases to use that people would find interesting. I’d talk with my husband Reid and say, “a whole decomposed body came in for exams and they laid it out on my sculpting table” or “now I know what a burned body looks like because I went to the morgue today” or “guess who drove in the back of an armoured van?” And I’d ask, “Is this something I should write about?” and he’d say, “Duh, of course!”

What made you want to write a book?

I never intended to write a book, even though I had an amazing and unique job. But after I retired, I started waking up in the middle of the night with nightmares, my brain going over and over what happened with the harassment and the bullying. I couldn’t get back to sleep, so I went to the computer and started writing. At first it was venting, getting the anger and the feelings of injustice out. And then I realized, I can’t keep quiet about this.

Every woman I know has dealt with work discrimination and harassment on some level, and felt like there was nothing they could do to avoid it, or make it stop. But we can stand up for ourselves and refuse to buckle under. I hope that maybe someone will read my book and think, “if she did that so can I.”

Will you write another book or are you off on new adventures now?

Nooooo!  I’m deleting my Word subscription! I want to stay as far away from computers as I can. My life now is going out with friends, reading books with my cat Bettie on my lap, and spending time with Reid. It’s perfect.


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1 month ago

Hi Lisa. I admire you so much. I am retired military and the discrimination was so subtle and insidious that I found it impossible to fight. It came in the form of the not so good jobs and not having a mentor to guide me through etc. – lots of mentors for the men – not so much for the woman. I did fight it once and I won the battle but I certainly didn’t win the war. It gave me the reputation of a trouble maker and a whiner. Taking on an organization like that is overwhelming – but what a great response!!! Write a book about it!! I’m really looking forward to reading it!!

Lisa Bailey
1 month ago

Hi Isabel,
Thanks so much! I was in the Navy from 81-87, and know how it works. I really expected more from the FBI, since they are the ones who are supposed to *enforce* the law, not break it. What they did was so incredibly over the top (and there’s more that I couldn’t fit into a book) that I had to say something. Hearing from other women really means a lot to me, so thank you again for writing!

1 month ago

LIsa, first of all, thank you for your service, your amazing commitment and integrity.
Second, what a great book! The way you tell your story about a career you are passionate about, and the descriptions of how you did your work, are fascinating. The discrimination was a sad and familiar story, all the more flagrant because it was the FBI. (I always wondered if Comey would have called out Hillary like he did if she had been a man.) Your courage and determination is inspiring.
I was in the corporate world during my career, and most of the discrimination was insidious and difficult, if not impossible to prove. The one time I did provide information about a sexual harassment incident, I was permanently labeled as untrustworthy. You’ve written a book that a lot of us can say again, #metoo.
Thanks for a great read!

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