Friday, July 14, 2017

Wonder Women

I fully acknowledge that the fire service had a long history of discrimination, and was at one time quite unwelcoming to women in its ranks. In many ways, those prejudices were  reflective of our culture at the time. But attitudes began changing in the 1980s and 90s--in fact, several women at the Los Angeles County Fire Department were instrumental in helping usher in those changes. And I'm sure it took plenty courage for them. 

Even today, I'm guessing that female firefighters still hear boorish comments from time to time. 

But our world has changed significantly. Today's fire service actively and aggressively pursues female candidates. Our department has earmarked millions of dollars in its annual budget for recruitment outreach that specifically targets women and people of color.

One of the newest female firefighters for the County works in my battalion, and she is pretty badass. A track team star in school, she brings the same determination, drive, and can-do attitude to her job. I’m glad she decided she wanted to be a firefighter, and I know she’s an inspiration to a few young girls out there who want to do the same thing when they grow up.

As reported in a recent LA Times article, the County Board of Supervisors wonders “why so few women work as firefighters.” But I have long suspected that it is simply not a very popular career destination for women. Could this be a fact that some are just unwilling to accept? Today much of the new recruitment effort seems focused on “selling” the job to women in the first place.

When I first pursued my dream job as a firefighter, there were literally thousands of applicants for a single opening. Lines in front of city hall would stretch down the block and around the corner. But fire department and human resources personnel couldn’t have cared less about me. There was no outreach drive, no color brochures, no meet-and-greets, no “how to” seminars, no introductory classes conducted by the departments themselves. No organization ever tried to convince me how much they valued me.

So I have to admit that this idea of trying to “sell” a job to a demographic that may be largely indifferent is completely baffling to me.

On the other hand, what would I know?

I just drive a truck...