Women in STEM panel discussion provides support and inspiration for women pursuing their professional goals
At the Women in STEM education session, a panel of female leaders from various fire and life safety organizations discussed the influence women currently have on the industry and the future anticipated changes for women in the fire safety world.
The featured panelists included Chief Trisha Wolford, fire chief, Anne Arundel County FD; Tonya Hoover, deputy fire administrator, USFA; Danielle Antonellis, founder & executive director, Kindling; and Diana Jones, senior director of technical programs and development, International Safety Equipment Association. Jones made a special presentation performing a re-enactment of Frances Perkins, who served as a factory inspector in New York when the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire broke out. Perkins went on to become the U.S. secretary of labor from 1933-1945, fiercely advocating for safer working conditions and employee protections.
From there, the panelists answered attendees’ questions, providing insights and perspectives from their own experiences over the years, along with their approach to facing challenges and struggles.
Key messages included the importance of recognizing your vulnerabilities and embracing rather than fighting them. “We all go through struggles to get where we want to be,” said Hoover. “Don’t be afraid to say, ‘I don’t know.’”
The presenters also encouraged women to not assume that when someone treats them poorly it’s because they’re a woman. “It could be one of many reasons,” said Wolford. “And let’s face it, some people are just jerks!”
Hoover’s advice was to deal with someone in the moment, then move on and let it go.
The presenters also encouraged women in the fire service not to limit themselves. Determine what your unique skill set is and where you can bring the greatest good.
When asked what can be done to attract women into executive officer positions, Wolford said she makes sure the women on her staff have the support to reach whatever role they want. Being a mother, for example, should not set limits on professional opportunities.
The honesty and straight-forwardness of the panels’ insights and perspectives made for an inspiring event that hopefully encourages more women to confidently pursue their professional goals and passions in the world of fire and life safety.