FDNY diversity turns a corner
NEW YORK CITY’s firefighter exam drew more test-takers than ever before, including a record number of women and a majority of hopefuls who were people of color, Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro said Monday.
“Our unprecedented recruitment campaign has succeeded in drawing interest in a firefighting career from more young men and women than ever before,” Nigro said in a statement. “And our goal to expand and further diversify the applicant pool by attracting more women and people of color has also achieved record-breaking success.”
Nigro said 46,305 took the 2017 exam in September and October, a department record. And for the first time ever, people of color comprised a majority of the test-takers — 26,018 people, or 56% of those who took the exam. More women, 4,181 took the test than ever before, more than double the number of the previous exam, which was given in 2012.
Numbers were up across the board, especially among Asian test-takers, whose participation increased 55%. Participation also increased among black (39%), Hispanic (29%) and Native American (35%)test-takers.
The number of white test-takers decreased by 11%.
The FDNY put $10 million into its recruitment campaign, staffing more than 10,200 events across the city during the 18 months before the most recent exam.
The department previously settled a massive suit alleging discrimination against blacks and Hispanics applying to become firefighters, agreeing in 2014 to pay $98 million and revamp its hiring practices.
Regina Wilson, a Brooklyn firefighter and president of the Vulcan Society, an organization of black firefighters, said there was still an attrition problem.
“These numbers are good, but they are not great,” Wilson said. “We had roughly 20,000 black candidates sign up for the test, but approximately 11,000 took it. The same is true for women. When you have 9,000 sign up, but only 4,000 take the test, that’s a lot of dropoff.
“While the FDNY is talking about the $10 million it put into this recruitment effort, there’s still a lot more that can be done, especially to address the attrition rate.”