By Sheila Anne Feeney amNewYork, New York.
Not even half of 1% of firefighters in New York City are female, but that fraction inches up Tuesday, as four women probationary firefighters graduate from the FDNY Fire Academy in a class of 282.
The newest Bravest will raise the percentage of women to almost 0.5%, meaning that there will now be 41 women in a total firefighting force of 10,400, according to the FDNY.
Ages of new hires range from 24 to 33 and they include two African-American women, a Hispanic and a Caucasian woman, said Sarinya Srisakul, president of the United Women Firefighters and a nine-year veteran of the Department, who noted that the FDNY suffers "the worst gender disparity in the country" for major metropolitan fire departments.
But more women firefighters are in the pipeline, as a record-breaking 4,261 women filed for the last firefighter exam, more than for the last three exams combined, Srisakul said.
"It will be up to the mayor and the new commissioner (Daniel Nigro) to set the tone for the department," in giving qualified female applicants equal access.
A spokeswoman for the FDNY noted it has added 13 women over the past two years. The new firefighters are: Giselle King and Antoinette Proctor, both 33 and from Brooklyn, and Vanessa Schoenig, 27, and Charlotte Shannon, 24, both from Queens, Srisakul said.