Case #1052.0

Walking a Fine Line: Qualifications and Equal Opportunity in the Charlotte Fire Department

Publication Date: January 01, 1991
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Between the mid-1970s and early 1990s, the fire department in Charlotte, North Carolina, successfully integrated women firefighters into the formerly all-male department. To do so, the city deftly adjusted testing procedures so that neither male nor female prospective firefighters, nor firefighters already on the force, challenged the procedures nor the outcome. By 1990, however, Charlotte had begun to ponder the longer-term implications of a fire department with a significant number of female members. Given the traditionally grueling shifts of a firefighter, how might the position accommodate pregnancy and motherhood? Given the tendency of women to age such that some of their physical strengths eroded more quickly than those of men, could the department continue a physical testing policy which applied both to prospective and current firefighters? More broadly, should the fire department, which had traditionally avoided job classification and specialization, move to devise job categories which might allow it to retain women as they aged? This case examines the practical effects of gender integration and identifies the inherent long-term management challenges it poses.

Other Details

Teaching Plan:
Available with Educator Access
Case Author:
Pamela Varley
Faculty Lead:
Marc Roberts
Pages (incl. exhibits):
United States
Funding Source:
Federal Emergency Management Agency, United States Fire Administration, and National Fire Academy