ORLANDO, Fla. — Tuesday marks International Women’s day.
Channel 9 caught up with Lt. Jackie Pollock with the Orlando Fire Department. The veteran firefighter said she lets her actions speak where her stature falls short within a department focused on diversity.
It’s not even a role Pollock says she saw herself in.
“I ran in a crowd that they were police officers. They were firefighters. It never dawned on me that hey, maybe I would want to look into that,” she said.
But it has been a challenge for the Orlando Fire Department after former Chief Rod Williams resigned in 2019.
A federal investigator determined Williams sexually harassed, discriminated against and retaliated against the sole female assistant fire chief on his staff. The scandal birthed the department’s diversity program, which focuses partly on female recruitment.
Pollock said the scandal created a bond between the department’s now 27 female firefighters and highlights how important visibility is.
“Seeing people that look like them — that’s what I think has really contributed to more females getting into the fire service,” she said.
She emphasizes to potential female recruits that it isn’t just brawn that gets the job done.
“If I need somebody to squeeze into a mangled car and assess a patient or go hold someone’s hand or talk to them. I’ve got someone who can do that,” she said.
Instead of fighting misconceptions, Pollock said she just rises to the occasion.
“I take it as a challenge and then I embrace it,” she said.
Since the implementation of the department’s diversity plan, an average of 16% of new hire classes have been women.
For perspective, the national average is 4%.
The department also has 13 female civilian paramedics. Five were hired since 2020.
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