The trouble is that 95% of male candidates pass this test, but only just over half of women do. So the City Council decided that the test was preventing too many women from becoming firemen. Committee chair Elizabeth Crowley commented that the Fire Academy was using “excessive testing methods to keep women from graduating.” So the Fire Commissioner announced that candidates will still take the test…but now they don’t have to pass it.
That doesn’t make sense. The test was used not to keep women from graduating, but to keep unqualified people from graduating. It represents skills that firemen have to have on the job. Fighting fires and pulling people from burning buildings are physical tasks that require great feats of strength. If I need to be carried down a ladder from the third floor of a burning building, I want someone who’s strong enough to lift me. We need strong men for these jobs, not girls who can’t pass a physical fitness test.
This isn’t the first time physical standards have been relaxed to help women pass them—we’ve seen the same thing in the military, where women who are applying for physically demanding and dangerous work don’t have to meet the same strength requirements as men. Lowering the bar so that more women can get over it is dangerous for them, dangerous for their fellow firefighters and soldiers who need physically capable colleagues, and dangerous for the public that depends on their protection.
Listen to the radio commentary here: