What would you do if someone told you that you couldn’t follow your dreams or join a profession just because you’re a woman? Hopefully, most of us today would band together and stand up to such injustice. Be sure to remember to recognize female first responders every 9/11.
But that wasn’t always easy to do. And it’s still hard to do so even though many strong women have paved the way for us in the past. Take Brenda Berkman for example, the very first female to join the New York Fire Department.
Not only did she stand up for the fact that women should be allowed to be firefighters. She also stands up for the fact that we need to recognize that women were also heroes during the 9/11 crisis 19 years ago.
Female First-Responders On 9/11
When we look back on 9/11 year after year, we’re continually honoring the “firemen” and “policemen”. We’re taught that THEY were the sole saviours and people who gave their lives in the crisis.
But back then, there were actually 25 female firefighters in the FDNY. (And these are the ones that fought their way into the profession). Three of female firefighters died in the tragedy (and 343 of the department in total were killed).
So why haven’t we been recognizing the women that gave their lives? Why hasn’t our society fully recognized women as heroes as well?
Berkman laments that in the attack, she not only had to deal with the loss of colleagues and close friends that she cared about, there was also a ridiculous amount of sexism towards women within her workplace.
Sexism in the Workplace
In fact, Berkman (who used to be in law) sued the FDNY when women were allegedly allowed to join the force. The received absurd tests for physical requirements that were extremely difficult.
And when she sued the department, she alleged that she would quit her career in law and join the force if they would just let her in. She is one of the many empowered women that have helped pave the way for further gender equality.
Berkman and 40 other women joined the FDNY after she won the case. And they stuck with their jobs until retirement despite constant sexist comments, being threatened and dealing with sabotaged safety equipment.
It never ceases to be absurd that men want to keep women out of the workplace so much that they had to fight for the right to follow their dreams and to join first responder careers.
And even after being able to join these types of careers, our country has not given them nearly enough recognition. Men are not the only ones who can be heroes.
A Recognition of Empowered Women
It’s never safe or comfortable to stand up for what is right. In fact, Berkman and a colleague once got fired from the FDNY on the premise that they were physically inadequate.
Joining the force was a volatile choice for women because the men weren’t okay sharing the glory with them.
Luckily the women got reinstated after taking it to court with the firing ruled as “retaliation”.
So many women have been paving the way for other women for centuries. Berkman and her female colleagues took up the torch. And now it’s our turn to stand up for what we think is right.
While we’ve come so far, sexism is still floating around, and women still face so much discrimination. So what are you going to do to help pave the way for your fellow women?
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