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New York City
March 2002

Captain Rochelle Jones, FDNY

Factors 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.

Pivotal 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.

Achievements: 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.

Obstacles: 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.

Mentors: 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.

Advice: 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.

Goals: 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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