Women firefighters battle more than blazes


The Associated Press reports that women firefighters still face significant barriers and discrimination, most notably in New York.
…Of roughly 296,000 professional firefighters [nationally], about 6,500, less than 2.5 percent, are women. That’s up from zero as of 1972, but “nowhere near the point where you lose your token status,” said Terese Floren, director of the Madison, Wis.-based Women in the Fire Service.
Firefighting forces are more than 10 percent female in several big cities; two of them, San Francisco and Minneapolis, also have women as fire chiefs.
The Seattle Fire Department has 91 female firefighters, a little over 9 percent of the force, said Helen Fitzpatrick, a spokeswoman for the department.
But in Boston and Philadelphia, barely 1 percent of the firefighters are female; New York has only 29 women out of more than 11,000 firefighters, less than 0.3 percent.
…No major fire department embodies a new approach to gender more than San Francisco’s, where 230 of the 1,700 firefighters are women, and the chief is Joanne Hayes-White, 41.

The article focuses on one woman’s experience in several NY firehouses, and addresses specific cases of harassment and discrimination across the country.
In case you’re interested…
Legal Momentum, a legal rights organization for women, does great work on nontraditional employment for women. In addition to taking on discrimination cases, the organization has also negotiated collaborations with sports clubs for free physical training for women firefighter candidates, worked for increased recruitment and retention of women firefighters in NY, and produced an award winning documentary on the previously unnoticed efforts of women on September 11, The Women of Ground Zero.

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