According to the National Fire Protection Association, there are approximately 1.1 million firefighters in the Untied States, yet only 7% of them are female. In Los Angeles, the problem is even worse. 38 female firefighters out of 4,000 total firefighters (.95%) are employed by the L.A. County Fire Department.
In the United Sates, the first known female firefighter was a slave named Molly Williams during the early 1800s. A few women continued to volunteer at fire companies until 1936 when Emma Vernell became the first official female firefighter in New Jersey. For comparison: United Kingdom – As of March 2007, the proportion of operational firefighters in the U.K. who were women was 3.1%. Japan – As of 2003, 3.8% of the Tokyo Fire Department were female firefighters. India – In 2012, the Mumbai Fire Brigade inducted five females, making them the first women firefighters to ever serve in the organization. Norway – In 2011, 3.7% of Norwegian firefighters were women. Evidently, the United States has a more inclusive stance on female firefighters, yet still has significant room for improvement.
In terms of sexual harassment, much work remains to be done according to a survey conducted by Women in the Fire Service in 1995. This survey was taken by 551 female firefighters across the U.S. 88% reported that they had experienced some form of sexual harassment at some point in their fire service careers or volunteer time. Almost 70% responded that they were experiencing ongoing harassment at the time of the study. 339 of the women complained about the harassment; only 115 (1/3) listed positive outcomes, such as investigating the problem or disciplining the harasser. 26% said they experienced retaliation for reporting the incident. Moreover, in 2015, a female firefighter in Albuquerque was awarded $183,000 for enduring years of sexual harassment. Incidences include being grabbed, spied on in the shower, and waking up to a colleague standing over her, exposing his genitals. More examples of persistent sexual harassment exist.