United Women Firefighters seeks help expand training program for Aspiring Young Women
The United Women Firefighters Aims To Address Gender Disparity In FDNY - Currently Only 63 Women Among Force Of 11,000
United Women Firefighters (UWF), a grassroots organization run by a small, but dedicated group of FDNY women firefighters and officers in New York City, has launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise funds necessary to expand its one-of-a-kind, proven training program, which is designed to help and prepare young women to become firefighters. Coinciding with the 35th anniversary of the UWF, the campaign aims to meet the increased level of interest among young women in taking the test, and address the gender disparity that still plagues the FDNY.
On September 22, 1982, 41 women entered the gates of the FDNY fire academy and broke barriers as the first women firefighters in the department’s history. Now 35 years later, the FDNY is doing only marginally better. Today there are only 63 women firefighters and officers among the FDNY’s ranks of nearly 11,000, which is shockingly a historic high. United Women Firefighters, founded by retired FDNY Captain, Brenda Berkman, and built upon women helping women, wants to change this.
Working with a shoestring budget and relying 100 percent on donations, the United Women Firefighters offers a free training program in conjunction with the New York Sports Club that puts women candidates through many of the tough physical requirements that they would need to do to pass the tough firefighter physical test and even tougher fire academy. During the program, women candidates learn from seasoned FDNY women firefighters on how to effectively train and how to navigate through the process of becoming a firefighter. Among other activities, they train with weighted vests that simulate firefighting gear, pull heavy dummies that simulate fire victims, and pull real fire hoses and climb stairs with heavy equipment.
“We have an incredible track record, and the women who've gone through our training program have gotten stronger, faster and better prepared for the firefighter exam and fire academy,” states President of United Women Firefighters, Sarinya Srisakul. “This current iteration of our program has been in effect since 2013 and we've been largely responsible for doubling the number of women firefighters in the FDNY to 63, which will soon be 67 by the next fire academy graduation on October 18th.” She adds, “Our next milestone is 100 women which will be close to 1% of the FDNY, but we can’t do this without financial support.”
In 2017, over 8,700 women have applied for the firefighter exam, which creates the very real possibility of closing the gender gap in the FDNY, ending a decades-old issue. To be effective in reaching these women and, ultimately, increasing the number of women firefighters in the FDNY, the UWF needs to purchase new equipment, increase its staffing, and produce online content for women who cannot physically attend the training program, consistently. The organization has turned to crowdfunding to raise the $15,000 it needs to do all of this.
The UWF’s “Ignite The Next Generation Of Women Firefighters” campaign just launched on the crowdfunding platform, Women You Should Fund. While the effort has already raised over $2,000, because this is an all-or-nothing campaign, the UWF must reach its fundraising goal by the end of the month to be successful. Offering an assortment of unique rewards at specific pledge levels (e.g. coloring pages, stickers, patches, challenge coins, fitness packages, original artwork) United Women Firefighters hopes to inspire people to join its mission of supporting the next generation of women firefighters, and bringing the FDNY closer to gender equity.