Hair and grooming standard relies on the safety and the appearance of the firefighter. A safety standard is considered gender-neutral since the fire will eventually burn the exposed firefighter’s hair regardless of gender. Through the development of technology, protective equipment made possible to have longer hair provided it is not exposed during firefighting activities. Flame resistant hoods and helmets liners, and self-contained breathing apparatus facepieces insures that all areas of the head are protected.
Grooming requires men to have a shorter hair against women and most fire departments usually specify a standard hair length that must be pinned or restrained during work activities or emergency situations. Such policies are achieved through negotiations either formal or informal with the fire department management. Most fire stations are designed for single-gender workplace and with the entry of women it may create inconvenience, restrictions, discomfort, embarrassment, and conflict.
Short term alternative used is by having a flip flop signs of occupied/ not occupied, men/ women, and the likes in bathrooms or comfort rooms to identify the person inside. Some departments employ makeshift partitions such as rollaway curtain or row of lockers in between beds if separation for bunkroom is required. The effect of inadequate facilities inside a fire station will promote the tendency of harassment for women, and problems with job performance and morale.
Continued negligence on the part of the management only indicates that women are not that important to the department and hostility will take its toll. It is imperative that the management address the necessity of well designed facilities not because of a woman employee inside the department but on the notion that men and women must be given privacy in their workplace. Women, most of the times face promotion with a mixed feeling. Women are as eager as men in new challenges at work, in career advancement, and in competing to be promoted.
Often times the process of starting all over again in a new position might be overwhelming to some women. The fear of leaving up to the standard of a male dominated workplace, the task of administering command to her subordinates, the fear of acceptance by the public and her co-workers are some of the thoughts that might affect the performance of a newly promoted female firefighter. In most cases the best way to overcome these is through anticipation and preparation of the necessary skills for the job such as training and seminars, and seeking to some form of mentorship.
Every year several women firefighters are being promoted to officer’s rank such as the rank of an engineer, a lieutenant, or captain. Some are being promoted in the chief-level category such as division chief, battalion chief, assistant chief, and chief of the department. A woman being promoted usually uplift her morale and leads to a deeper commitment in the organization thus reflecting high or better job performance, gaining a great respect among her co-workers, and longer work tenure since it indicates a start of a career. Some of the noted female firefighter officers are Lt.
Brenda Berkman who broke New York City’s sex barrier in the 1980’s, Terese Floren of the Winconsin-based group director, and Eileen Lewis who is among of the several urban fire department female chiefs. (Crary A1) As age defies the rigorous and strenuous work, there has been no definite age retirement for female firefighters and the like. One example is the case of Grace Jepsen who remained a volunteer firefighter for two years before retiring even though she has a breast cancer and mastectomy. Her condition clearly exemplifies that there is no boundary on firefighting service though the physical nature of the body is deteriorating.
Some of the ailments a female firefighter might encounter during aging are being menopause, osteoporosis, arteriosclerosis and atherosclerosis, arthritis, and sleep demands. Thus the entry of female firefighters in the field of firefighting, which is usually a male dominated workforce, brings a different perspective in view of policies and standards of fire departments. Delicate and sensitive issues concerning discrimination and harassment, marriages and relationships, reproductive health, child care and parenting, hair and grooming, fire station facilities, promotion, and aging are addressed.
Without female workers in the field, the existing policies and standards intended for male will never be changed and amended. Thus the introduction of female firefighters has subsequently changed the firefighting profession towards their protection, welfare, and equal rights.
Brenda Berkman, Teresa M. Floren, Linda F. Willing. ”One Women Strong: A Handbook for Women Firefighters”. November 1999. Women in the Fire Service Inc. Retrieved March 17, 2007. http://www. wfsi. org/resources/fa-195. pdf David Crary. “ Female Firefighters Fight Perception”. www. Firehouse. com. March 16, 2002. Retrieved March 16,