By: Robert Avsec, Executive Fire Officer (And great-grandfather to two young girls)
Women and girls make up roughly 51-percent of the U.S. population, yet women account for less than 5 percent of firefighters in our country.
That’s just one of the driving forces behind more fire departments actively recruiting women in their communities to become firefighters, for career and volunteer departments alike. It’s an arduous task that’s made more difficult because too many women in U. S., and our neighbor to the north, Canada, still do not see becoming a firefighter as a career option or as an opportunity to serve their community as a volunteer firefighter.
Why don’t they?
Common wisdom holds that people like associating with people they more easily identify with, especially people who look like they do. So, if all that girls see are male firefighters in their community, it makes sense that they would not see themselves growing up to become a firefighter.
Did you know that by the time boys and girls reach the age of 11-years, they’ve already gotten it in their minds that certain jobs are done by men and certain jobs are done by women? Eleven years old! That stunning piece of information was included in a 2008 study, A National Report Card on Women in Firefighting, completed for the International Association of Women in Fire Emergency Services (iWomen). That’s how powerful societal influences are on our children growing up.
The same research, however, also indicates that those perceptions can be overcome through exposure to age-appropriate information and “hands on” experiences.”–Captain (Ret.) Jennifer Roman of the Madison (Wis.) Fire Department and one of the founders of CampHero, an experiential public safety summer camp for girls.
Female Firefighter Plush Dolls
Triple-F (Fierce Female Firefighters) is an organization of women in the fire service that’s looking to change that perception for girls with the introduction of their Female Firefighter Plush Dolls. Tina Guiler is a lieutenant and paramedic with the Miami-Dade (Fla.) Fire Rescue Department. She’s also the CEO of Triple F and had this to say about Triple-F’s decision to create their firefighter doll:
I want to show little girls that they can be anything, even a firefighter. On calls adults and children would ask me, you’re a firefighter? I didn’t know girls could be firefighters. So, my hope is that more little girls and society in general will see these dolls and now start to think women can be firefighters too. I genuinely believe, “If they can see it, they can be it!”Lt. Tina Guiler
The firefighter dolls come fully equipped with a set of firefighter gear. Helmet, coat, pants, and boots for a true firefighter look. And some gear can be removed and put back on the doll and, they can style the hair anyway they like for that play activity that so many girls enjoy: Dress up with their favorite dolls. What better way to help girls learn to associate being a firefighter with also being a woman?
Meet Firefighters Molly and Ember
The female firefighter plush dolls come in two different models: Firefighter “Molly” has black hair and a darker skin tone, and her name is a tribute to Molly Williams, who became the first known female firefighter in the U.S. in 1818. Firefighter “Ember” has brown hair and a medium skin tone.
Both dolls are 15 ½-inches tall and soft with no sharp edges or plastic. Each is a completely plush doll with brush-able hair that can be styled any way. “Molly” and “Ember” both have removable parts (the Triple-F axe, gloves, hood, and bunker coat). All other parts are sewn on to the doll. Both dolls are suitable for ages three and up.
Fire Departments Must Start Young
As I wrote in Want More Women for Your Fire Department? recruiting women to be firefighters at job fairs, high school or college career days, and fitness centers is “a ship that’s already sailed.”
Fire departments need to take their recruiting efforts “down several notches” and seek to show girls that both women and men can serve their communities as firefighters, and that means getting to them before they reach that age of 11. With such a recruitment goal in mind, the Firefighter Doll from Triple F would appear to be a valuable tool.
Purchase Triple F Firefighter Dolls for your department’s personnel to have available when they do fire and life safety education (FLSE) programs in the community. Teach your personnel how to use the dolls as tools to promote your FLSE messages as well as how to emphasize that girls can grow up to be firefighters, just like boys.
And speaking of boys, I can’t think of a better way to start molding their perceptions early that girls can become firefighters, too. Maybe by doing so, we can begin developing the next generation of male firefighters who don’t come to the job with a bias that women can’t be firefighters.
December Holidays around the World
Tis the holiday season with December Holidays around the World. In addition to Christmas, other religions and faiths celebrate, just to name a few, Hanukkah, or Chanukah (Jewish), Kwanzaa (U.S.), Boxing Day (UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, among other countries), Ōmisoka (Japan), Chinese New Year (China), St. Lucia’s Day (Sweden, Norway, and Swedish-speaking parts of Finland), and Las Posadas (Mexico).
Why not introduce the young girls in your life to Ember and Molly this holiday season as a gift that shows them girls can grow up to be anything, especially a firefighter!