The Issues Facing Women in Firefighting

There are hundreds of laws generated and passed to protect women, minorities, religious beliefs and freedoms, age, certain disabilities, gender beliefs and lifestyles, and our veterans. Claims based on violations are costing fire departments millions of dollars every year and can harm the careers and dreams of those chosen to become firefighters. One of those protected classes are women firefighters, who still report experiencing inequality in the workplace.

Some fire departments have come farther than others; many have yet to make changes. In most departments, the most senior firefighters, were brought up in the old ways and may not have adapted well to change.

Women in Firefighting, Today

Today, the U.S. Department of Labor estimates that only 4 percent of firefighters are female (compared to the 14 percent of women present in police and military forces). Though many firefighting operations have expanded their workforces and created a welcoming environment for men and women alike, many women today still report experiencing harassment and hazing while on the job. A department in Fairfax County, Virginia appointed a female employee last year to address gender-related problems within the department, but, ironically enough, she resigned and stated that her suggestions were not heeded.

Here are some of the areas in which gender issues have arisen:

  • Hiring: Firefighters, paramedics, and emergency responders always must pass certain physical tests before they can be hired. It has been argued that many of these tests were discriminatory towards women and did not fully simulate the requirements of the job.
  • Facilities: Because most fire departments have been exclusively male for many years, some station houses are not built to accommodate women or mixed groups (such as with separated showers and bathrooms, or partitioned sleeping areas).
  • Harassment: Some women have stated that they faced a double standard when hired; one said that women were “assumed incompetent basically, inferior and incompetent.” Others stated that they were harassed or discriminated against.

Though these issues are still prevalent in some jurisdictions, other women in other departments have reported great progress in recent years. They have valued their female team members, enforced zero-tolerance harassment policies, and worked to create a fair and welcoming environment.

Management Liability Insurance

Any organization that has employees will inevitably see employment-related issues arise, and in these situations, Management Liability Insurance (particularly Employment Practices Liability Insurance) is necessary to cover the cost of litigation and costly claims. Covered exposures include employment practices violations as well as breach of duty, mismanagement of funds, and improper administration of benefit funds. No operation wants to think about claims coming from within, but it is crucial to be protected for the ones that do.


About Provident Fire Plus

At Provident Fire Plus, we offer custom tailored packages to best protect firefighters and volunteer firefighters. We understand the risks that emergency response teams are subjected to on a daily basis, and have worked to serve these dedicated professionals for over 87 years. For more information about our products and policies, we invite you to contact our experts today at (800) 447-0360.