Study shows inequalities

Published:  01 June, 2008

A report by Cornell University’s Institute for Women and Work (New York) has found that less than three per cent of US firefighters are women, and more than half of paid fire departments have never employed a female firefighter.

This compares poorly with the average of women accounting for around 47 per cent of the US civilian workforce. In other jobs requiring strength and stamina the average is 17 per cent.

A National Report Card on Women in Firefighting is based on research and survey from 675 firefighters from 114 departments in 48 states, and includes interviews with 175 female firefighters.

The report found that 85 per cent of female firefighters interviewed felt they were treated differently; 79.7 per cent were given ill-fitting equipment even though female sizes have been available for over 10 years; 50 per cent felt shunned or socially isolated; 37 per cent were verbally harassed; and 37 per cent felt their gender was a barrier to promotion.

The report concluded, “Guided by findings from study, gender inclusion is the new standard to which departments are likely to be held. Senior fire managers need to lead their departments in resolving deficiencies proactively, before being forced to by expensive and disruptive litigation.”

The report is available on

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