Rochelle Jones, FDNY
in Career Choice:
Looking back I would have to say that firefighting chose me, more
than I chose firefighting. My father was a firefighter. Our trips
to the firehouse were always fun-filled. In those days, little
girls couldnít grow up to be firefighters. Firefighters were men.
In 1978 the Fire Department accepted applications from women for
the first time. That is when I applied. It took four years before
40 women and I would be hired by the Fire Department of the City
of New York, the first women to do so.
Point: I believe that I am now experiencing a pivotal
point in my career. On September 11th I lost 14 firefighters and
officers from the firehouse that I am assigned to. I also lost
a great many friends. I have had to be stronger that I ever knew
I could be. Having reached my 20th year with the FDNY, I could
retire but I am on a promotion list for Battalion Chief. I have
decided to wait for the possible promotion and reevaluate my life
at that time.
Being promoted to lieutenant in May 1994 was personally satisfying
for me. Competition in the FDNY for promotion is fierce. I studied
for almost three years. My promotion marked the first time a woman
had been promoted to a supervisory role in the FDNY. I scored
very high on the examination for Captain and was ranked at the
top of the list. I was promoted in June 1999.
After being hired in 1982 all of the women firefighters faced
adversity daily. We endured many months, even years, of ostracism,
harassment, and humiliation. The women firefighters and I knew
that we had to endure, we had to overcome, if we really wanted
to be NYC firefighters. It was a personal decision not to be forced
from our jobs.
My father was my first mentor. He had encouraged my older sisters
to take tests for the police department. I believe that this sent
a message to me that he believed women could do what was traditionally
a male job. He also encouraged me to follow through on my application
to the Fire Department.
My very first boss, Carolyn Holmes, taught me that a woman could
succeed in a manís world. Carolyn, was in 1976, a Second Vice
President at Chase Manhattan Bank and leader of a team of male
treasurers. She always challenged me to do better, to dream bigger,
to always set the next higher goal.
Once on the Fire Department there were several mentors, but the
strongest mentor was my husband. He was a firefighter when we
met in 1985. He has always encouraged me to study, and to seek
assignments that challenge me.
I would tell young women that they should surround themselves
with people who also want success. People like yourself who want
to be the best at what they do. If you consistently do your best,
you will succeed. You should always challenge yourself to reach
the next level.
At the moment I am on the promotion list for Battalion Chief.
After the promotion I will have to evaluate whether I will continue
my career or plan for an early retirement. September 11th has
given me cause to reevaluate my priorities, and focus on living
a personally more meaningful life.#
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