Excerpts from the ChicagoTribune.com:

There are very few workplaces left in the United States where women have not gained entry. But in one of the last places where a virtual male monopoly endures, it’s still possible in 2018 for departments to hire their first female firefighters. Such is the case in Joliet, which announced this month it took on its first female recruit in its 165-year history. Though many departments started hiring women decades ago, some still have only one woman firefighter and some have none.

Nationwide, only about 4 percent of firefighters are women, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, even as that figure has risen to about 14 percent in police work and the military. Even traditionally male occupations like farming and construction management have higher percentages of women than firefighting.

Attitudes toward women in the profession have generally improved, but some still face horror stories. In Fairfax County, Va., Firefighter Nicole Mittendorff took her life in 2016 after being harassed about her work online. The department appointed a woman to address gender problems, but she resigned this year, according to local reports, saying no one was heeding her suggestions.

This year, the U.S. Department of Justice sued the city of Houston over claims that two female firefighters were victims of sexual harassment that included male co-workers urinating in their dormitory, writing sexist messages on the walls and deactivating speakers so the women couldn’t respond to emergency calls.

The Chicago Fire Department has been the subject of several lawsuits in recent decades alleging race and sex discrimination in its hiring practices. For years, the department required firefighters and paramedics to pass physical tests that were challenged in court as discriminatory against women, before the city agreed to replace the tests. Now, like many departments, the city uses the Candidate Physical Ability Test meant to better simulate the requirements of the job, such as climbing stairs, raising ladders, dragging hoses, carrying equipment, swinging axes and conducting searches.

Researchers from Drexel University in Philadelphia studied the experiences of 30 female firefighters and published their findings in September in the Journal of Workplace Behavioral Health. A majority of the women said they faced a double standard, especially for any who were the first female to join a particular department. Several participants also described cases of discrimination or harassment; some said they felt a responsibility to other female firefighters to stay on the job. But the research also found that male firefighters often viewed their female colleagues as more skilled at de-escalating tense situations, calming emergency medical patients and assessing on-the-job risks.

thanks Dan