Recently Black and Hispanic firefighters have cried foul on the FDNY’s allegedly discriminatory hiring policies, now it’s the ladies’ turn. "Don't let a girl do a man's job," read placards during a demonstration after a 1983 court decision to change a screening test, to give females a better shot at fire department jobs. Before 1977 women weren’t even allowed to be firefighters. But despite some changes, today there are just 32 women in the department (you don't see any bikini shots in NY's hunky calendars). "Women are even more underrepresented in the FDNY than minority male firefighters," president of the United Women Firefighters Regina Wilson wrote in a letter to Judge Nicholas Garaufis, who's ruled in favor of minority firefighters in previous lawsuits.
The city didn’t hire its first women firefighters until 1982 after the group sued claiming a physical exam discriminated against the fairer sex. But even today, some male firefighters dispute that decision. "It's a physical job. It requires physical strength," Deputy Chief Paul Mannix told the Post. "People ask why there aren't more women in the Fire Department. Why aren't there more women in the NFL or Major League Baseball?" He added that having a different physical test for women is harmful to the department. "You can't get away from the fact that this is a physical job. This is a dangerous job and they are trying to dummy it down."
But in other cities female firefighters represent 10 percent of the force; in NY it’s a meager .25 percent. "The obstacles impeding women from the profession of firefighting in New York are varied and complex," said Wilson. Her group is considering tagging onto the Vulcan Society’s minority discrimination lawsuit against the city and "is exploring legal options to safeguard the rights and concerns of its membership." Well, at least now there's a store that caters to the needs of women firefighters.