Five women graduated from New York City’s Fire Academy on April 18, bringing the number of women serving in the Fire Department of New York to 72 – the highest in its history.
The FDNY’s 2018 graduating class also includes the first son to follow his mother into the profession. She was one of the 41 women hired in 1982 after the department lost a gender discrimination lawsuit and was ordered to add qualified women to the force.
Despite these milestones, women still make up less than 1 percent of New York’s 11,000 firefighters. The city trails Minneapolis, San Francisco, Seattle and Miami, where in recent years fire squads have been more than 10 percent female. The national average hovers around 5 percent.
Approximately 10,300 women nationwide worked as full-time firefighters in 2016, according to the most recent data available from the Department of Labor. In 1983, there were just 1,700.
These women are on the front lines, fighting fires, helping victims of natural disasters and combating terrorism.
I interviewed over 100 female firefighters for an academic study of women in traditionally male industries. My research reveals how women are changing firehouse culture and transforming how Americans see heroism.