Unemployment hit a 54-year low of 3.4% in January, with the job market recovering from the pandemic. Women have actually outpaced men in joining the workforce for four months straight, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The pandemic particularly impacted female-dominated fields, as U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows that the number of women in the workforce dropped to 56.2% in 2020 — the lowest percentage since 1987. While many women are returning to these fields in this post-pandemic era, especially with the expansion of remote work, many are looking for a change of pace.
In honor of Women’s History Month, the Lynnwood Times is highlighting women working in a few “blue-collar” fields traditionally associated with men.
Snohomish Regional Fire & Rescue (SRFR): Snohomish Regional Fire & Rescue celebrates our female firefighters this month. We have many hard-working female firefighters on our team. They go above and beyond and are leaders in our organization. This leadership is exemplified in day-to-day responses and in the positions they hold. One is a Medical Services Officer. Four are Firefighter/Paramedics, and one is on the Snohomish Regional Fire & Rescue Honor Guard. We are also excited to have four female firefighter recruits in our current fire academy! We appreciate all that these women do to serve our communities and look forward to welcoming more females into the fire service in the future!
Jessica Hanna has been a firefighter with SRFR for 7 years.
“The opportunities in emergency services are endless,” Hanna said. “Snohomish Regional Fire & Rescue will train you in structural firefighting at the academy, wildland firefighting, as a rescue swimmer, hazardous materials response, technical rescue, paramedic school — you name it. It’s an amazing organization that allows you to learn and grow.”
Hanna wanted to be a firefighter since kindergarten, after North Bend firefighters came to her school with a trailer designed to teach children how to escape a fire. When it was her turn, she was fascinated with the “fake” smoke and stayed inside, watching it until one of the firefighters came to find her.
Hanna is now also an instructor at the Everett Community College’s Fire Science program, the Fire Academy in North Bend, and Camp Blaze — an organization that recruits women into emergency services. Participants at Camp Blaze range in age from 14-18 and spend 10 days learning the fundamentals of firefighting.
“The culture of the fire service is changing. Women are proving their physical abilities through programs like Crossfit and weight training,” Hanna said. “It’s also important to have women responding to calls because we can relate better to female patients in difficult situations.”
Lisa Defenbaugh is a lieutenant with SRFR and has worked in fire service for 22 years.
“I chose this field for multiple reasons,” Defenbaugh said. “I enjoy taking care of people and being on a team that offers a physical challenge and adventure. I also like never knowing what my day will look like, so this prevents me from ever getting bored.”
Defenbaugh’s motivations for entering the field are still what she enjoys about fire rescue.
“There are multiple areas of the job I love, and most of them are the exact same reason that I chose the field,” Defenbaugh said. “The best and most unexpected aspect along the way has been how much better you can make someone’s day.”
Defenbaugh also had words for other women thinking about a career in emergency rescue:
“If you think this job is for you, don’t let anyone stop you. There has never been a better time for a female to become a firefighter,” Defenbaugh said.