By Sarina Trangle
Propelling more females into the FDNY ranks and investing pension funding in women-led corporations may seem unusual policy priorities for a city councilwoman from Glendale, but not when the legislator leads the Council’s Women’s Caucus.
The group’s 15 members elected Councilwomen Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) and Darlene Mealy (D-Brooklyn) co-chairwomen of the caucus last month.
During her one-year term, Crowley hopes to focus on strengthening workplace rights for females and empowering more women to take leadership roles.
The councilwoman, herself the first female elected to represent the 30th Council District, said she sought to help with a host of gender issues, from eliminating the pay gap between men and women to educating New Yorkers on health care and access to other benefits.
“We need to make sure that the Council is supporting women. Although we may be a majority of the population, we’re still a minority in a lot of ways,” Crowley said.
With roughly 30 percent of Council seats going to women and 20 percent in the U.S. Congress, Crowley said she was troubled by the lack of female politicians.
She and fellow caucus members hope to inspire younger generations to get more civically engaged by each inviting a female student to shadow them March 26, when both the Council and caucus are scheduled to meet.
Crowley said she would focus on gender gaps in other levels of government, including the Fire Department.
Currently, 37 of the more than 10,000 FDNY employees are female, according to the councilwoman. That amounts to less than 1 percent.
The councilwoman said a much higher proportion — 5 percent — of women taking the written exam to join the department score high enough to qualify. But she said many are not offered slots at the Fire Academy because they fail the physical exams.
As a remedy, Crowley said she hopes to work with the City University of New York and its John Jay College of Criminal Justice on an initiative to train women and better prepare them for the test.
Additionally, she said apprenticeships could help funnel more females into non-uniform roles.
“We only have 37 females in the Fire Department. We have an opportunity to get 338 — that’s the number of women who did well on the written exam,” she said.
The city recently reached a $98 million settlement with a group of African Americans and Hispanics who filed a federal lawsuit alleging that the FDNY written exams given to prospective employees were biased, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
In the private sector, Crowley said the city can support female leadership by investing in corporations with women on their boards.
“We’re going to work with the comptroller’s office to make sure that the companies in which we are putting our tax dollars are good companies that have a good reputation of diversity,” she said,
Reach reporter Sarina Trangle at 718-260-4546 or by e-mail at [email protected].