While women have broken through many barriers, there's still a need to attract more women and members of the LGBTQ community to join local fire departments. In fact, fewer than 4 percent of the nation's firefighters are women.
"Seattle stacks up a little better than that. We're just below 8 percent of our population, our 1,000 firefighters, are women" said Seattle Fire Chief Harold Scoggins. "Traditionally, we have done better, but even over the last 20 years, we've done better than that. We feel we have a lot of work to do."
The number one challenge in recruiting is mindset, says Scoggins.
"Many times people think they can't do something until they learn about it. Then they realize it's something they can actually do," said Scoggins.
Right behind that is the qualifications and the skills and ability, Scoggins.
"Having the physical strength is very important, but you can get past that because we have so many programs that help with that," said Scoggins.
Scoggins shares a few tips for women and LGBTQ members who feel firefighting is their path:
Find a mentor. Find a good, strong mentor who's going to invest the time in you to make sure they keep building you up to prepare for this.
Find local programs. Seattle Fire Department's cadet program opened in September and will be available until the end of the year. King County Fire Chiefs also has an initiative, Future Women in EMS / Fire Academy, where women can explore potential careers in EMS. Renton Fire Department is also hosting a 2-day workshop in October.
"There's a lot of information out there, but it all starts with number one: connecting with a mentor," said Scoggins.
Scoggins and K-D Hall Foundation founder Kela Hall hope to change that by empowering women and supporting mentorship. One place where that support will be offered is at the Women on the Rise networking event where attendees will be able to meet with members of the fire department. The event is on Friday, September 14, 6-10 p.m. at the Museum of Flight.