i-68791d03e685bd374c7a13d28e7f6b52-women_firefighter.jpgIn the 1970s and 80s, a number of law suits and other actions began to change the rules for hiring firefighters. There was a moment in the 1980s when a documentary was made (starring the very annoying John Stossel) pieces of which I still use when teaching on Gender. It shows Bella Abzug, Gloria Steinem, and others arguing in favor of women being firefighters, and others (including, of course, one woman who is already a fire fighter) arguing against. One of the interesting things about the film is the way it is biased against women being fire fighters while at the same time trying really hard to seem the opposite.

Well, today, we’ve come a long way. Almost four percent of fire fighters in the US are women!

Oh, and nearly half of the nations professional fire departments have hired at least women, the remaining having never done so.

But seriously, the glass is a lot more than half empty. Fewer than four percent cannot be passed off as a harmless sex difference in interest in being a firefighter. Well, a new study by Francine Moccio and others at Cornell’s INstitute for Women and Work updates us.

“The underrepresentation of women in firefighting is an alarming inequity that needs to be immediately addressed,” said Francine Moccio, director of the institute and co-author of the report, “A National Report Card on Women in Firefighting,” which was presented at the International Association of Women in Fire and Emergency Services meeting, April 24, in Phoenix.

“Women are not getting recruited and hired because of an occupational culture that is exclusionary and unequal employment practices in recruiting, hiring, assigning and promoting women generally — and women of color in particular — in fire service,” Moccio added.

Working with two civil rights lawyers and an economist specializing in employment and human resource management, Moccio and the research team analyzed surveys from 675 firefighters from 114 departments in 48 states and interviewed 175 female firefighters in depth in the first study of its kind.

The researchers found that despite more than 20 years of legislative reform and litigation, women are simply not being hired. When women are hired, the study found that 85 percent interviewed reported that they were treated differently; 80 percent said they were issued ill-fitting equipment, 37 percent reported that their gender creates barriers to career advancement; 50 percent felt shunned or socially isolated; and 37 percent were verbally harassed.

“This landmark study shows that more than half (51.2 percent) of the nation’s largest metropolitan regions still have no paid female firefighters,” said Moccio. “The New York City Fire Department receives one of the lowest grades, with fewer than 0.25 percent women firefighters,” added Marc Bendick, an economist and co-author.

That compares with the top 10 percent of firehouses (29 departments) with the most women, where women comprise, on average, 14.5 percent of firefighters. Locations with the highest percentage of women are Tuscaloosa, Ala. (24 percent); Kalamazoo, Mich. (almost 23 percent); Springfield, Ill. (19 percent); Racine, Wis. (almost 18 percent); and Redding, Calif. (17 percent).

Although women account for about 47 percent of the U.S. civilian labor force, “the conventional wisdom [in the field] is that women simply aren’t interested, and they can’t handle the job,” said Moccio. Yet, when the researchers looked at the percentage of women in comparable jobs requiring strength and stamina or involving dirty or dangerous work (e.g., drywall installers, loggers and welders), women represented 17 percent of workers. And, almost half of women firefighting candidates pass the physical ability tests.

“We need to start in our own backyard, New York City, which has scored at the very bottom of this report card,” Moccio said. She stressed the need for immediate intervention from mayors, fire chiefs, legislators and fire service managers to recruit, hire and retain culturally diverse women into this occupation.

The report highlights ways in which fire departments across the country can develop and reward best practices that address these issues and promote inclusion.

[source]

Comments

  1. #1 RBH
    May 13, 2008

    First, a pet peave: We tend to distinguish between volunteer and career (not “professional”) firefighters.

    Second, my bet is that in the volunteer fire service (which comprises roughly 85% of all fire services in the U.S.), the proportion of women is significantly higher. In my volunteer department (which has had women members since the 1970s) the proportion is 25%, currently down a bit from our high, and we’re pretty similar to the other volunteer departments in the county. We’ve had women officers, including an assistant chief, and there’s no particular distinction made in training or operations. One of our female members was recently company honor firefighter in the state fire academy’s training program for career firefighters, longer (240 hours) and tougher than basic rural volunteer firefighter training, and several others have completed the same training, as have some of our men.

    Volunteer fire departments that fail to draw on half the population are crazy, in my less than humble opinion. It’s tough enough to get and keep volunteers without using irrelevant selection criteria.

  2. #2 Greg Laden
    May 13, 2008

    RBH: Thanks for the cmments

    I knew three women and two men who lived on a farm and applied to be in the volunteer fire department. They all had what was at that time called EMT training, and were otherwise qualified. The men were accepted, and the women were told that they could not be members of the volunteer fire department because they were women.

    They were eventually accepted, but only after a long legal fight.

    That was in the bad old days, and they were among the many pioneers who caused it to be possible for women to be on volunteer fire departments.

    (Notice, by the way, that I did take pains to make the distinction, though I apparently used the wrong term.)

    On the world fire departments dot com site (I have no idea of the position of this organization in the larger scheme of things) there is a page called “Women in Firefighting” for links to various resources. There are five links to women in fire fighting and two for firefighters wives. So clearly there is a residual “ladies auxiliary” effect going on there. (Most of these links are dead anyway, but that is not the point.)

    Here in the Twin Cities we have among the highest rates of women career fire fighters, including the chief of the Minneapolis department. The career percentage for females state wide is 17%.

    I’m not quite ready to buy your statistics as representative (and you are not representing them as such, of course) but i does seem that there are some volunteer departments with a more women. There are 6-7 thousand wmen career firefighters and 40K women volunteers, but as you point out most FF are volunteer. In Minnesota it is almost 10-1, I think. So, it may well be that there are vast regions where there are very few women volunteers.

    (By the way, as we must say “career” and not “professional” we must also note that “volunteer” does not exactly mean “unpaid” … there is sometimes pay)

    Most interestingly, there seems to be no central clearing house for data other than the usual sources for all occupational data.

  3. #3 (((Billy)))
    May 13, 2008

    I would, likewise, be curious to see the statistics for federal wildland firefighters. I work at 3 to 4 fires per year (I work as security or security manager (my knee is way to bad to be on the line)) and, just from casual observation, I would guess close to 10% of the crew members (type I and II) and engine crews are female. If you add in the overhead (time, equipment, supply, security, medical, etc.) the percentage approaches 25%. Having said that, I wonder what the real numbers are.

  4. #4 Virgil Samms
    May 13, 2008

    Frequency Of Female Fire Fighter Fewer Than Four Percent

    That doesn’t even make sense. Frequency needs to be expressed in events/time, as in Hertz (cycles per second) or some such. About all you can do with a percentage is a duty cycle.

  5. #5 Greg Laden
    May 13, 2008

    Virgil: First of all, a frequency is a number, and need not be expressed per something. Like, I could say “there are 113 Martians” and 113 is a frequency. Second, a percent is a frequency per something… per 100. Per. Cent.

    Finally, and most importantly, “Frequency” starts with an “F” as does “Female”, “Fire”, “Fighter”, “Fewer” and “Four” … so what would you expect me to do? “Proportion” simply did not work…

  6. #6 Virgil Samms
    May 13, 2008

    fraction

  7. #7 Greg Laden
    May 13, 2008

    Brilliant!

    Fraction of Fire Fighters Female Flounders, Falls From Four.

  8. #8 the real cmf
    May 14, 2008

    And: If your stuck in a truck all day, WTF? *Females Fart Fewer Fweefs*

  9. #9 raindogzilla
    May 14, 2008

    One question. I’m not a firefighter but I am a man who stands 6-4 and weighs in at 225lbs. Shouldn’t every single one of my firefighting mates be physically able to put me over their shoulder and extricate me from a structure, should something render me unable to do so under my own power? And, seriously, just from a standpoint of physiology, how many women could do that? Equality is one thing but, assuming that enlightenment is one day universal, you still won’t see a woman lined up in pads in the NFL.

  10. #10 Stephanie Z
    May 14, 2008

    raindogzilla, I know maybe two guys who could do that while you were both fully suited (that’s a lot of gear). Perhaps you should just stay out of fires? I know plenty of people of both sexes who would skip the shoulder and still do whatever it took to get you out, though.

    As for the NFL, I suspect the breakthrough position will be kicker, then QB. No specific guesses on timing, but sometime after the next doping scandal.

  11. #11 Interrobang
    May 15, 2008

    Shouldn’t every single one of my firefighting mates be physically able to put me over their shoulder and extricate me from a structure

    No — usually firefighters take people out in pairs, if you haven’t noticed. When a friend of mine blew himself up, two rescue personnel took him out, and he’s not an overly large man.

    Stephanie — It’ll happen in the CFL before it happens in the NFL, most likely. There have been CFL QBs in recent memory who are the same size as tall women, and the game is played much more in terms of strategy than US football is (makes sense — longer field and fewer downs).

  12. #12 Andrew
    May 15, 2008

    I was watching a fire the other day in my neighborhood. I think they put the fire out just fine. But mot of the fire-men looked quite out of shape to me. It is not fair to compare “women” with an idealized tall powerful fit man. Compare instead to a dozen 50 year old pot-bellied donut-eating guys who knows how to use the equipment.

  13. #13 the real cmf
    May 15, 2008

    Raingodz:”Shouldn’t every single one of my firefighting mates be physically able to put me over their shoulder and extricate me from a structure?”

    Nope. Women shouldn’t have to do that–they should get promoted through the ranks so that they can give the orders to big dumb men who think that size and work and sweat for matter.

    “still won’t see a woman lined up in pads in the NFL”

    yeah you will, but by then it will be called the N-WTF-L, and the bleachers will be 30% full of hairy white women with dreadlocks and Dockers, who slap each other on the ass way more than guys ever did,and yell “killher!!” but in a non-violent femin9ne way.

    Afterwards they will go get beers and try to out muscle each other on the dance floor, with all of them moving like tall graceless oxen, and staring down any guy who tries to get a dance with….ooops, wait a minute….that’s the *Minnesota Lynx* at O’Donovans…never mind…

    BTW: how many times did Hillary use the words “stronger and harder” in her acceptance of the Appalachian vote anyways?

  14. #14 Stephanie Z
    May 15, 2008

    CMF, bait much? The one female firefighter I know is in it for the gritty parts. She wouldn’t take management if you begged her.

  15. #15 the real cmf
    May 15, 2008

    Steph: “bait not want not…” but throw the pole in the right hole, and the fish virtually jump on the line…heck some spots don’t even need bait, they just need a male opinion before they are biting like piranhas!
    ;-)
    Actually I was thinking of the recent sexual harrassment scandal in MPLS, where the female Chief (Boonie Blaskachek) was demoted for sexual harassment of other female firefighters. I LOVE equal rights!

    Stronger…harder equality…

  16. #16 Stephanie Z
    May 15, 2008

    It was nice not to hear anyone screaming that she couldn’t have done it because she was female, wasn’t it? Or have I just insulated myself from idiots enough that I didn’t hear it?

  17. #17 the real idiot
    May 15, 2008

    Yeah,women don’t do bad things; and when they do its because they “don’t have the power…”
    harharhahr
    Insulation is good but not necessarythese days, because most of the real rabid rapeologists and femihoaxsters have passed on (ah, dear Andrea, did you ever get that final milkshake?)

    Realistically however, lesbians make easy targets for the mainstream…just wait till Hillaries secret keepers begin to tell tales…oh, wait ; Hillary “doesn’t have the power…!”

  18. #18 Stephanie Z
    May 15, 2008

    Gone but not forgiven? You’re not terribly clear about when you’re speaking about the past, you know. But yes, the temptations of means-justifying and believing things that “should” be true are seductive, especially when you’re involved in a fight that is longer than your own lifetime.

    And yes, the claims would have been scrutinized more skeptically had she been harassing men, but I think the lawsuits would have ensured they were taken seriously.

  19. #19 the real Gladiator Maximus
    May 15, 2008

    Never Forget.

    It keeps some of us strong. Forgive? Such a subjective plaintive verb,and not worth the time it takes in actuality.

    For “the sake of the children” we owe it to the future to remember, because the past repeats itself.

    Yes: there is a presumption that womens coercive sexual inference is in fact desired by males, and male freedom is constantly leveraged against this toleration ; the very meaning of male is to tolerate female advance via the indoctrination of ‘male virtues’ such as virility expressed by tolerance from an early age of boundary invasion, and its associated excesses

  20. #20 Stephanie Z
    May 15, 2008

    I said nothing about forgetting. Forgiving, though, I think helps keep us from believing we can’t be just as blind ourselves.

    I might go as far as replacing “tolerate” with “enjoy.” Stupid “shoulds.”

  21. #21 the real cmf
    May 15, 2008

    In the land of the blind, the one eyed man is king .-)

    I wouldn’t go so far as to say enjoy, as that has been the biggest part of the problem for males who find that their voice is often co-opted by this other presumptive force that replaces necessarily passive verbs with dangerously (primarily for males) active ones that have yet to be legally defined as egalitarian in consequence.

    Those shoulds…f#$69ng Kant!

  22. #22 Stephanie Z
    May 15, 2008

    Hmm. I’m not sure we’re not making the same point about enjoy vs. tolerate.

  23. #23 the real cmf
    May 15, 2008

    yeah, mebe not..elaborate your concept of enjoyment v tolerance?

  24. #24 Stephanie Z
    May 15, 2008

    I was suggesting it’s not uncommon to find presumptions that are more harmful than your statement about tolerance–presuming enjoyment was what came to mind.

  25. #25 the real cmf
    May 15, 2008

    Steph: what is harmful about my statement about tolerance?
    ” not uncommon to find presumptions that are more harmful than your statement about tolerance” and what presumptions are you referencing? I’m not sure we are on the same mooncheese right now.

    hmmm…enjoyment? Bentham, right? Or do you mean in that sort of Nieszche way–the way many interpreted him to be hedonistic as opposed to experientialist?

    but “presuming enjoyment” is something I seldom if ever indulge in…

  26. #26 Stephanie Z
    May 15, 2008

    I didn’t mean your statement or your presumptions, but others’ presumptions as you stated them. I’m basically saying it’s bad enough to be faced with the assumption that one has no recourse in a bad situation (must tolerate). The idea that one is participating in the situation by “enjoying” it is much more caustic.

    It wasn’t anything deliberately abstruse, just something simple badly phrased.

  27. #27 the real cmf
    May 15, 2008

    Gotcha. Agreed.

    My main thesis is that many men (American and western men in particular,latin culture, etc.)–from the boy up–have this dillema of womens boundary aggression-turned-“affection”, but no language to describe it.

  28. #28 Stephanie Z
    May 15, 2008

    I suspect that’s true of any two groups between whom relationships are culturally idealized, parents and children for another example. The language doesn’t begin to describe all the complicated interactions–positive, negative and mixed–that can go on.

  29. #29 the real cmf
    May 15, 2008

    Unfortunately, the language of today–see any CSCL storybook..er..text.. for examples– has limited the archetypes of men down to a) heinous b)not-heinous c) negligible/non-existent

    Whereas all of the dialogue is about woman in context to man: a blending of all archetypes into ‘universal collective woman’ who has only pure motivation(same, circa 1890’s, but re-tooled into 2008), and any other thing is malicious inference by the patriarchy. So the last bastion of and hardest contested unexamined territory is actually the marternal archetypes.

    So in fact the language describing men has been severe and continues to be, even at what one would like to believe would be the most sanct levels(you mention parenting), yet men are today as they have always been: scrutinized from the lowest to highest levels( only at the highest levels of wealth can they afford to avoid a dualistic predational gaze)with exclusive and limiting paradigms of behavior.

    Hence my suggestion that we examine specifically the idealized maternal role, or ala this post, the myths of women and work.

  30. #30 Stephanie Z
    May 15, 2008

    And it only took more than a dozen comments back and forth to get to that point. Talk about language problems. :)

    I think that’s a measure of some progress, though. You’re engaging with archetypes, and as I read it, others are largely seeing that as you using competing archetypes (the less “ideal” ones) to avoid engaging with the individuals being discussed. Call me an incurable optimist, but I see this as a willingness on the part of many to engage with individuals instead of archetypes. That, of course, is my hobby horse. A different path to many of the same goals, I think.

  31. #31 the real cmf
    May 16, 2008

    Steph: “Talk about language problems”
    Ah, but writers so love their first drafts for exactly that reason!

    Direct, midwestern pig-headedlatin is exactly what led to the archetypes taking root in the first place, which is the problem.So language–lots of it–like hydrating an infection, is necesary, even if we approach it “indirectly,” as you posit: but note that I was not talking about this originally, I was just having fun with the stereotypes, and recasting the archetypical.

    But I was dead serious about those girls with the Lynx, and their hyper-competive ape like glances and chest thumping at those of us (male) who challenge their social/cultural territory–or their dominated ‘others';-)

    “a willingness on the part of many to engage with individuals instead of archetypes”

    yeah, on rare occasions. It takes women from birth to eighteen to become indoctrinated and mentally fatigued by misandrist feminist rhetoric,;then four years of college and peer pressure (depending on the weakness of each woman to female coercion) to accept or reject the fem dogma; then it takes th3e rest of her life to figure out how deeply she has been lied to, or to embrace the dogma.

    So, males are not human to women largely because of the social constructions of women who objectify males[...] rather than “engage [men] as individuals”.

    So you are refreshing indeed.

    But curiously, “others are largely seeing that as you using competing archetypes” ;those others Steph, cannot weed through their own dogma and indoctrination, much less ‘their’ emotional baggage long enough to carry on a conversation.

    Even then, these un-named others have yet to comprehend anything other than the machine pressed version of male that they are personally comfortable with. Men are especially flawed in this respect because only the most malleable of them adopt the feminist constructs of reality by rote, as for some it increase their breeding “success” rather than their “fitness”, or merely adopt the constructs as ways to avoid female violence, and social coercion.

    Others are just cowardly, and unable to comprehend their masculinity as an entity seperate from the nascent maternal bopnd, etc..

    But I have a question for you “to avoid engaging with the individuals being discussed”

    Which individuals are you talking about? Which discussion? I have zero problem engaging with individuals–provided they are feminist/matriarchy stigmata free, and actually thinking for themselves…the collective is a great idea for bonobos, chimps, and hyenas, but it isn’t necessary all the time in the human world–and good luck coaching the stigmatists into their own individual dialogue;-)

  32. #32 Stephanie Z
    May 16, 2008

    Refreshing? Aw shucks, CMF, I’m not that unusual. No, really. I’m just stubborn enough not to give up until I figured out what your point was–or some part of it–and I like to argue. Discussions like this (well, maybe not exactly like this) do go on elsewhere, even between stigmatized whitemens and privileged white women. Sure, lots of people don’t like to question the world, but plenty do too.

    As for the individuals, I’ll point it out when I see it. Until then, assume it’s an impression on my part that may or may not be borne out by events. Fair enough for now?

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