The New York Times profiles an all-female crew of firefighters.

Published January 23, 2006 7:54PM (EST)

The New York Times ran on its cover this morning a great story about an all-female squad of firefighters in San Diego. Talk about a profession that's still automatically considered a male domain. I was surprised at my own surprise at the story.

The figures about the percentage of women firefighters were staggering; San Diego is an extremely progressive district, with about 8 percent of its 880 uniformed firefighters being women; Minneapolis' fire department is 17 percent female and has recently sworn in a lady chief. But the national percentage of women firefighters is 2.5, and in New York, only 36 of the 11,430 uniformed firefighters are female (by my -- admittedly inept -- calculations, that's 0.3 percent).

The four women featured in the Times hold forth on some of the stickier issues of their unusual positions: the kind of abuse they received when they worked with men, their unwillingness to ask male colleagues for help in the past, the collaboration and fulfillment they get from their jobs.

Forty-one-year-old April Lallo, who briefly left firefighting to become a stockbroker but returned after Sept. 11, 2001, tells the paper, "If you speak out ... then guys look at you and they're afraid of you. I don't want that. I can't change things here, or in the fire service, but I feel like I can influence them by being positive, coming in and just showing them we don't have an agenda, we're here to work with you."

It's a really interesting read.

By Rebecca Traister

Rebecca Traister writes for Salon. She is the author of "Big Girls Don't Cry: The Election that Changed Everything for American Women" (Free Press). Follow @rtraister on Twitter.

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