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Exploring Careers with San Francisco Women Firefighters

Ever wanted to be a firefighter? During middle school, Girls Inc. intentionally exposes girls to a wide range of possible careers and leadership models. From tech to government to public service, girls see women thriving in multiple careers, many of them in traditionally male-dominated fields. These types of role models are critical to expanding girls’ sense of who they can become. This week, middle-schoolers at Aurum Preparatory Academy learned all about what it takes to be a firefighter.

Seven firefighters from the San Francisco Firefighters Women’s Group engaged with girls about fire department careers and what they do day to day. Girls were paired with a firefighter and asked all kinds of questions. One girl wondered, “is it hard to drag a hose?” Another girl wanted to know, “why do you do this job?” One firefighter answered, “because it’s how I can help the most people. I learned early on that I wanted to be on the ground, helping people – it is where I can make the most difference.”

During skills practice, girls rotated through groups. One group tried on all the gear and learned how to use an oxygen tank. Another group learned the basics of CPR and defibrillators and practiced on a mannequin. A third group dragged hoses around as a team and had races to see who could roll and unroll a 40 pound, 75 foot hose the fastest. And the fourth group practiced how to lead a blind-folded “victim” out of a burning house.

Building sisterhood and leadership are integral to Girls Inc. programming. Whitney Barca, a member of the San Francisco Fire Department, agreed that building these skills is critical to women’s success and spoke to the benefits of an all-female learning environment. “When we work with just girls,” she said, “we can focus on teamwork, collaboration, and standing on each other’s shoulders. This dynamic enhances our role as first responders, and we are able to focus on these aspects working with the girls.”

When the day wrapped up, all the girls were asked what they were walking away with. Selina, a 6th grader, said, “I learned that firefighters do a lot more than just putting out fires!” That’s a good thing to remember when we celebrate the amazing work these professionals do for our communities.