Happy International Women’s Day! Today is dedicated to celebrating the achievements and impactful contributions of women around the world. For us, this means recognizing women such as Molly Williams and Lillie Hitchcock Coit, who were documented as two of the earliest in history to begin breaking down barriers for women in the fire service. But, it also means recognizing the deficit of women in our industry. Today, over 200 years after Molly Williams single-handedly pulled a pumper to a New York City fire in the middle of a blizzard to save the lives and property of community members, only 5% of career firefighters in the U.S. are women.
As an agency that is driven to create a team that reflects the immense diversity within our community, we are so happy to have double the national average of women on our Response Operations team. But, we also recognize that in all facets of diversifying our team – we can always do better. Our strength as an organization stems, in part, from the unique contributions that each of our members bring to the table, and having people with different backgrounds and experiences come together to form our cohesive team is key to providing the best possible service to our community.
As an organization, we invest time and energy identifying barriers of entry into the fire service for all segments of our potential candidate base. One of the biggest hurdles on all fronts is representation and mentorship. We understand that it is hard to see yourself in a career when there are very few people like you currently visible in that field. We also understand that it is hard to know how to enter a non-standard field, like the fire service, when you don’t know anyone in the industry who can guide you through the process. That is why we have been long-time participants in programs such as the Future Women in EMS and Fire (FWIEF), which is sponsored by King County EMS and supported by fire agencies throughout the region.
Engineer Kelly Carpenter and Firefighter Kayla Eychner have been leaders in representing our agency as part of the FWIEF program for years, including when we participated as a host agency. This year, we are excited to include three additional Renton RFA female firefighters in our efforts to provide exceptional mentorship, education, and support through this program, including firefighters Shawna Mailloux, Quincy McFalls, and Michaela Wallace.
It is also why we are quick to volunteer to host recruitment events, such as the KCFCA Diversity and Recruitment Workshop, which is designed to help women, BIPOC community members, LGBTQIA+ community members, and those with little-to-no mentorship in the field of firefighting better understand their pathway into this rewarding career, and their home within the Renton RFA family.
Today, we recognize the important and impactful role that women play in every aspect of our society, but we also look to the future of the fire service and how women will continue to make epic contributions to the fire and life safety provided to our communities.
If you are a woman who is interested in considering a rewarding career in the fire service or an emergency medical field – know that there is so much space for you in this industry, especially here at Renton RFA. Please consider signing up for the Future Women in EMS and Fire Workshop, which is currently accepting applications for their April 22-23 session until March 31, 2023. And if you have questions about working in this industry or as part of our team, or you are looking for mentorship, please don’t hesitate to reach out. Our members would love to help you embark on a long and successful career in public service.