EMS, fire departments can do more to recruit women, minorities

A department that mirrors its community demographics promotes trust, and leadership should actively push for this culture within its ranks


Discrimination and bias continue to plague the public safety industry, especially in the fire and EMS service. Most departments report abysmally low percentages of women, blacks, Latinos and Asian populations in their ranks.

There are a myriad of cultural, academic and socioeconomic reasons why fire and EMS crews don’t represent the general community population. To be fair, the problem goes far beyond the departments themselves; I see this issue every day in my paramedic academy, with few minority and female students in the class.

Providing a few thousand dollars to help women enter the FDNY ranks is a good step, but a small step. Departments have to do more to encourage under-represented members of their communities to consider public safety as a career. Moreover, departments need to actively push for organizational changes within the station walls, creating a culture that welcomes this as a critical opportunity for overall growth and strength.

A public safety department that mirrors its community is reflective of policies that promote trust and engender support. Having greater insight into cultural norms and behaviors strengthens tolerance and understanding of the non-clinical and non-operational aspects of the job. 

It’ll take a lot more commitment from department leadership and crews to triple the number of female firefighters, which would then make it a whopping 1 percent of the entire staff.

Do you think they could do it? Do you think they want to?

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