Wildland Firefighter Foundation
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Home / WLF TheySaid / Women and Fire – Recruitment and Retention

  • 02/18/2015
  • Boot Straps

So at the risk of inflaming some…  I am wondering if the Forest Service (in California) is going to start focusing on recruitment of women.  Just watching…The LP had a women’s boot camp and numbers of women at fire hire continue to be low.  The NY Times article from this fall is focusing on a few bad situations (and who knows the real details). I have seen discussions on FB, but would love to see it here….

I am female, but have never wanted anyone to assume I got a position for that reason.  The consent decree is before my time, but the effect lingers.  There are few women in fire on my unit, but I still don’t think gender is a reason to hire someone.  It would be cool to see more women so there is more than one female per module but at what cost and how.

So my question for discussion is… how do we get women interested without making the men not feel like they are less important?  How does a woman (or man) participate in recruiting females without being targeted as biased against men?  I have watched the discussions on the women’s bootcamps on FB, and they are mixed.  What is the better idea?

This is my first post here… but I’ve been watching since the old format.  Will give it a whirl because the FB variety is a bit scary.


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  1. Your name...
    February 19, 2015 Reply

    Long term planning: Exposing girls at a young age to team sports, or other structured/physical hobbies. Co-ed experiences at a young age that creates dialogue of gender differences/realities/similarities. General exposure to young people about the fire service or other labor intensive jobs, and what skills they need to develop in order to be successful. Sooner or later these females will be more interested, and have honed skill sets for the service.

  2. Joule
    February 19, 2015 Reply

    I’m so happy that someone posted this question. Having worked over 15 years for the federal government I can relate to Boot Straps comment above. I got my job based on my qualifications, I know that for certain. However, once in the field with an all male crew, I was reminded frequently that I was a female and that couldn’t do various tasks. Granted I could do all of them but the “good ol’ boy” mentality seemed to rule the mindset. I think once that mindset can change more females will feel welcomed to apply for these field jobs.

  3. Lucky Lindy
    February 19, 2015 Reply

    I did a couple fire hire workshops in two different college’s in days past (Early 2000’s) both for males and females, I can’t remember how many takers we got but it was a few that we hired.
    Speaking as a past FOS (fire Station Manager for the BLM) I had a number of women on my engines, and I always appreciated them being on the team. They could do everything my guys could do and they seemed to be able to keep the guys acting a little more professional just by their presence. FYI: Despite my moniker I’m a male, from MN, a pilot who’s first name is Linden, hence Lucky Lindy, no disrespct to Charles Lindberg

  4. Federal Firefighter in Nevada
    March 9, 2015 Reply

    I just got done with hiring. Just to let you know we interviewed every girl that was on the list that wanted to work in the area. So, I hope this helps. I don’t know what they are doing in some areas over other areas but just remember in Region 5 there are thousands of applicants with very few spots. Recomendation go out and meet the people where you want to go work. Go to each station and introduce yourself. Call them once a week and let them know your interested. Go hike with them. This goes for guys too. They can put a face to the name.

  5. stringtown
    March 19, 2015 Reply

    This is a totally legitimate question, and one there is no easy answer to. I recently attended a seminar on the recruitment and retaining of women in geosciences, and I found there were many parallels with females in wildlandfire. Without being asked in the questionnaires for the study many females reported very negative experiences in field. There were lots of comments like, “women don’t belong in the field” and “women just don’t like dirt.” I am a woman who has worked in several male dominated fields, and have often been treated like women just can’t hack it in the field. There were a lot of men who thought I couldn’t even drive the 4 wheel drive roads to get to fires let alone do something about the fire when I got there. In my experience this was more pronounced with the older generation than the younger generation. Really it boils down to ingrained gender roles and what boys and girls are taught they can and cannot do from very young ages. As younger generations break these molds and older generations leave us I think many of these barriers will start to fade. The highly simplified answer is that it will take time for old ideas to wear away. I also agree with the first comment, exposing kids to all sorts of co-ed experiences, getting girls involved with more physical activities that were traditionally thought of as “boys” activities, and exposing young fire and outdoor service jobs will go a long way. Women are often more than qualified to do a full range of fire jobs. I’ve had a number of fire managers tell me that women may not always have the shear physical strength that men have, but often more than make up for that with both mental and physical stamina on the fireline.

  6. Lance
    July 23, 2015 Reply

    Great question so I will pose one back at you if hopes of finding an answer…. Why are the females not applying for career- seasonal positions? Why am I not seeing any names past a season list.. I am currently recruiting females and males to fill multiple positions however I am seeing qualified females on the list. Any interest would be much appreciated as we want to have diverse workplace that includes all people.

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