Don’t Think the “Glass Ceiling” Exists for Women in Fire and EMS?

Male Female IconsA while back, I wrote a post entitled, Why Don’t We Value Women in Fire and EMS?  Recently, I received the following e-mail from a woman fire Executive Fire Officer:

I am a 29 year veteran of the fire service and currently serve as a Division Chief on a career fire department where I have come up through the ranks. Recently, I was passed over for promotion to the position of Chief. I am a graduate of the Ohio Fire Executive Program where I was recognized for writing an outstanding applied research paper.

I took the information that I gained through my OFE program assignments to developed programs for my department. I used my strategic planning assignment to develop a strategic plan for improving our department’s ISO rating. I have served as the Division Chief (second in command) for almost 7 years before being passed over for the promotion.

Woman OfficersThere was no testing, no assessment center or other competitive process to choose the new Chief. There was no resume or CV review. There was no opportunity to discuss our achievement. The Mayor spent 1/2 hour with each of us and asked 3 questions. Based upon those 3 questions, she chose the Chief.

The successful candidate has a Fire Officer I, II and III which he achieved in the last 18 months. He has been a Captain for 3 years and has been assigned as a 40 hour training Captain. He has never served as a shift Captain. The most personnel he has supervised is 2. He has no management experience.

He is a 40 year old white male with a young family, who lives in the community. I am a 56 year old single female. The glass ceiling exists and it appears to be bullet proof.

I was one of the first females in the fire service in my state. I have always had to be better than the men. That made me a better firefighter, but when you are better qualified than the men and still can’t win, it is outrageous, hurtful and demeaning.

It isn’t just in the Fire Service; it is in public sector as well. Thank you for caring.

Seattle FD BCI find it truly sad and disappointing that in 2014 we still have politicians making such outrageously poor management decisions for their community’s Fire and EMS protection. I look at this individual’s investment in herself and in her department, as well as her department’s investment in her, and I’m left shaking my head in dismay.

We see so much conversation these days about how we can improve our efforts to recruit, hire, and retain qualified women candidates for our Fire and EMS organizations. But that’s not enough. If we are going to provide the best Fire and EMS services for our communities we also have to make use of their talents and energies once they are in our organizations.

We also have to reward their dedication and hard work with the promotions to senior management positions commensurate with those efforts. The same rewards that have always gone to white male firefighters and officers when they have “put in the hard work and taken the tough assignments” during their careers.

What do you think? What do we need to do to make the situation better for today’s women in the Fire and EMS world, as well as for those young women who follow them?

About Robert Avsec, Executive Fire Officer

Battalion Chief (Ret.) Robert Avsec served with the men and women of the Chesterfield County (VA) Fire and EMS Department for 26 years. He’s now using his acquired knowledge, skills, and experiences as a freelance writer for and as the “blogger in chief” for this blog. Chief Avsec makes his home in Cross Lanes, WV. Contact him via e-mail, [email protected].