A New York City Firefighter Just Took a Major Step Forward for Women


The news: Finally, a woman has broken through one of the FDNY’s most hallowed glass ceilings.

New York City firefighter Danae Mines is the first woman to appear in the FDNY’s annual Calendar of Heroes, which features different firefighters in various locations for each month of the year.

Image Credit: New York Daily News 

The calendar is notorious for its photos of shirtless male firefighters; its yearly release is usually met with applause and long lines of people waiting to snag copies.

She’s part of a tiny minority in the firefighting world. Mines, who works in the South Bronx, is one of only 41 female firefighters in New York City, which has 11,400 firefighters total. She is one of the few that has stuck with the job for more than a decade. Mines told the Daily News that she had always wanted to be featured, but was told that the gig was only for men. “They said if I made it in the calendar, I would look like a pinup girl,” she said.

"Out of a city of 8 million people, there cannot be only 37 women who are qualified enough and interested in being firefighters — that's just ridiculous," Sarinya Srisakul, president of the United Women Firefighters, told the AP in January 2014. (That number is now slightly higher.) Nationwide, women make up only 3.4% of firefighters.

Image Credit: Gothamist

The tides are turning: In places like New York and Chicago, women are making efforts to make a change. United Women Firefighters trains and offers guidance to prospective female candidates who have passed their entrance exams. In June 2013, a group of female EMS workers, who are part of the FDNY, settled with the city for $1 million in a gender discrimination lawsuit. Their lawsuit alleged that they were prevented from promotions above lieutenant or captain due to their gender.

In Chicago, 140 women were recently allowed to reapply to become firefighters after they won a lawsuit alleging they had been rejected from the program due discriminatory practices in its physical abilities test.

Image Credit: New York Times

The diversity problem extends beyond women: As an African American, Mines is also a minority in the FDNY — its ranks are about 90% white — and the lack of diversity has been a recurring issue for the nation’s largest fire department.

Image Credit: Gothamist

In 2012, a judge ordered New York City to pay $128 million to firefighters who accused the department of using entrance exams that were biased against minorities; the judge also ordered the FDNY to recruit 293 black and latino candidates.

The takeaway: Mines’ induction into the stories ranks of the FDNY’s Calendar of Heroes is a symbol of progress and should serve as an inspiration for other male-dominated organizations to showcase their female staff. In light of all the recent developments at the FDNY — from court decisions to new policies — her March photograph is another step forward.

“I wasn’t going to let anyone tell me I couldn’t do what I wanted to do,” she told the Daily News. “I was determined.”