‘Big challenges for women still exist’ - GulfToday

American female firefighter Brenda Berkman says every field poses challenges to women


Retired Capt. Brenda Berkman speaks on the sidelines of the just-concluded ‘Global Women’s Forum Dubai 2020.’ Kamal Kassim/Gulf Today

Mariecar Jara-Puyod, Senior Reporter

She signed up for the Little League because she loved the American sport, only to be rejected because she was not a boy.

Interviewed on the first day of the just-concluded “Global Women’s Forum 2020” in Dubai, this lady lawyer-artist who won a lawsuit against the Fire Department of the City of New York (FDNYC) in the 1980s and so opened up opportunities for women like her to pursue careers in the risky firefighting profession, has this one message to world leaders: “You need women.”

She is Brenda Berkman, among the several featured “Game Changers” of the international gathering of thought-leaders aside from women across all sectors of the society all over the world. “I am not the first American woman firefighter. But I was the woman who filed a lawsuit against the (FDNYC) and won it in 1982.”

Berkman, now retired with the rank of captain, after working at the “largest fire department in the world” for 25 years took the courage to drag the institution to court because of “job tests which have nothing to do with firefighting.”

“Like (the job application) is for a firefighter and the tests are for a doctor. Does not make any sense.”

And so that, Berkman questioned and won,  not only tearing down impediments against would-be women and women firefighters in the US but also sending strong signal to all the fire departments in the world “like in the UK, France, and Australia since the (FDNYC) is the largest fire department in the world.”

On the personal level and taking from the plenary discussion on gender inequality on Sunday, Berkman said: “Big challenges still exist.”

She agreed there should be no let-up just because of the differences of girls and boys, and women and men.

“We need women in every aspect of the society. We do not have to waste the talents of the 50 per cent (just because of gender bias) when there could be (multiplicity which would be helpful for everyone.)”

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