Increasing the number of female firefighters in the LA City Fire Department has been a long-term goal for Mayor Eric Garcetti. But with the department on track to miss that goal for 2020, it’s stirred conversations on what more can be done to recruit and retain women in the force.
According to the LA Times, only 3.3 percent of the city’s 3,372 firefighters are female, missing the 5 percent goal Garcetti set to hit by 2020. Despite this, the department has been able to slowly build the number of women in their force. There are currently 110 sworn female firefighters in the department compared to 92 in 2013. LAFD battalion chief Kristine Larson cites a visibility issue as the biggest challenge to recruiting more female firefighters. She says that many aren’t aware that firefighting can be a viable career path for women and lack the resources and information on how they can join the force. The department has increased their recruiting efforts, launching publicity campaigns and school outreach programs.
While attitudes towards women in the profession have generally improved, firefighting largely still remains an ‘all boys’ club. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that only about 3.3 percent of firefighters are women nationwide. Fire departments around the country have also been making an effort to diversify and increase the number of women firefighters in their force. In California, many departments, including the LAFD, have launched Girls Camp programs which aims to teach young girls about firefighting.
Today on AirTalk, we look at the challenges fire departments are having at increasing the number of female firefighters in their forces and what is being done to address the issue.
Kristine Larson, battalion chief in charge of the firefighter recruitment section for the Los Angeles City Fire Department and board member of Los Angeles Women in the Fire Service, a nonprofit organization that aims to support current and future fire service women and men in the LA area
Amy Hanifan, president of Women in Fire, a non-profit network providing education, support and advocacy for fire service women; operations chief for the McMinnville Fire Department in McMinnville, Oregon