Ninth International Conference of Fire Service Women
|By Delainya Salstrand|
|Sponsored by Local 798, I attended the Ninth International Conference of Fire Service Women, organized by Women in the Fire Service, in Cobb County, Georgia from March 14-18th, 2001. The conference began with opening ceremonies in a room filled with approximately 500 uniformed women from fire departments throughout the country and around the world, as well as a surprising number of male firefighters. The ceremony began with the introduction of all the flags of the countries present, speeches by hosting Cobb County Chief Rebecca F. Denlinger, various members of WFS, and the General President of the IAFF, Harold Schlesinger (which was inspiring as he stated his commitment to building the diversity and inclusiveness of the IAFF and its affiliated Locals).
Attendees of the conference included women fire fighters, officers and chief officers. There were a multitude of workshops ranging from Internalized Sexism within the Fire Service to several on the CPAT including both a trial course for attendees and a workshop focused on implementation and general discussion.
Specifically, I attended a workshop on Mentoring within the fire service, that discussed the benefits of having new recruits mentored throughout their careers by assisting them in various areas ranging from surviving probation to taking promotional exams. It reminded me of the importance of investing time and resources in our new firefighters, as they are the future of the department. That is, the better we train and assist new firefighters today in their first few years, the better equipped they will be to represent our Department and our profession in the future.
Another workshop I attended was also very inspiring. Entitled Building a highly diverse workforce; the Minneapolis Fire Department presented it. In the workshop they illustrated how their Department has found ways to promote that include diversity while raising standards for promotional exams and clearly defining expectations and requirements for all members of the department aspiring to promote. This has been accomplished through collaboration among their enlightened Chief Rocco Forte, his diverse leadership team, and the members of his department and their employee organizations.
Throughout the Conference, I was continuously amazed by how many successful and highly professional women firefighters and officers were present during the four days that I spent in Cobb County, Georgia. I brought home with me a new perspective and a renewed respect for women in the fire service. It has inspired me to become a more active participant in my department, our union and the employee association for women firefighters, United Fire Service Women (UFSW).