Women's Commissioner Testifies to Support AB 2149 - 2010

Assemblyman Warren Furutani (D - Long Beach) introduced AB 2149, encouraging a diverse and equitable fire service. On May 5, City of Tracy Firefighter/Paramedic and Women's Commission member Laura Hernandez testified at a hearing in support of the bill.

AB 2149 strikes obsolete references to "fireman" in the County Employees' Retirement Law of 1937 (aka '37 Act) and instead, makes reference to "firefighter." In doing so, this bill assists in broader efforts to ensure gender equity in the state's county retirement law given focus on recruitment and retention of women in non-traditional public safety professions, such as firefighting.

Nationally, it's estimated that fewer than 3% of front line firefighters are women - in California, women account for about 5% of the total ... most of whom are concentrated in a few large departments. Much of the decline in the number of female firefighters can be traced to a lack of recruitment efforts following the abandonment of affirmative action programs in 1996.

The California Fire Fighter Joint Apprenticeship Committee (CFFJAC) has enjoyed considerable success in broadening the pool of minority firefighting applicants over the last decade; however bringing women into this traditional male-dominated profession has had its difficulties. To augment their efforts, The CFFJAC created its first Women's Issues Advisory Committee in 1986. Through their efforts, a range of printed and video material was created and circulated to demystify the fire service for all recruits, especially women.

The progress made in building a broader, more diverse fire service stalled in 1996 with the passage of Proposition 209, which restricted traditional affirmative action programs. Many fire departments stopped recruiting, and women again saw firefighting as an unattainable goal. Once again, the CFFJAC's unique approach offered an alternative model for building a diverse fire service.

In 2005, the CFFJAC created a new Commission to Recruit Women for the Fire Service. Comprised of eight female active firefighters - ranging from firefighter to chief - the Commission meets regularly to develop fresh approaches to recruit women ... all designed to bring a new generation of women in to the profession.

AB 2149 was introduced on February 19, 2010 and was referred to the Assembly Public Employees Retirement and Social Security Committee.

At the hearing on May 5, City of Tracy Firefighter/Paramedic and Women's Commission member Laura Hernandez testified in support of the bill. Stating that even in California "women account for about 5% of the total, and most of those are concentrated in a few large departments" she urged support of the bill as a way to continue in the efforts to build a fire service "built on talent and ability, without regard to gender." With Laura's support, this bill was approved unanimously by the committee.

For more information contact CPF Legislative Director Amy Howard.