Advancement Experiences of Female Firefighters: A Descriptive Phenomenological Study

Advancement Experiences of Female Firefighters: A Descriptive Phenomenological Study

Author: 
Lynda K. Majerowicz
Program of study: 
D.M.
Abstract: 
The purpose of this descriptive phenomenological research study was to explore and describe the lived experiences of career advancement of female fire chief officers in San Diego, California and throughout the United States. The study sought to understand the participants’ perspectives, perceptions and lived experiences comparative to any obstacles, challenges, or disadvantages overcome during individual career experiences. This descriptive phenomenological study used semi-structured, audio-taped transcribed interviews allowing the participants to reflect on personal lived experiences and explain, in detail, using personal experiences what characteristics and competencies contributed to their personal accomplishment of a chief rank. Thirteen female fire chief officers were interviewed using purposive and snowball sampling to explore and describe their lived experiences regarding career advancement in answering the main research question: What are executive female firefighters’ experiences with career advancement in the fire service? NVivo 11 software assisted in the coding process allowing the researcher to identify six themes and two sub-themes. The findings of this study uncovered female firefighters still struggle with: (a) acceptance, (b) culture, (c) respect, (d) a sense of not belonging, and (e) unfair treatment. Women are the change agents and future leaders the fire service needs.
Dedication: 
To all the female firefighters, past, present, and future. May the struggles of the past overcome the roadblocks of the present and expel the hurdles of the future. May the words within these pages help all women realize their true potential, not only in the fire service but in any profession. “The best accessory a girl can own is confidence…and a Halligan” – Kim Fitzsimmons
Acknowledgements: 
Above all, without the support of my family, Joe and Richard, encouraging me on at every step, pushing me forward when I wanted to stop but never did, I will be forever thankful. Your sacrifices have allowed me to achieve a goal others said I could not accomplish. Your sacrifices have allowed the words on these pages to help others, now and in the future, just as any firefighter sacrifices to help others. To the female chiefs who took the time to share with me a small piece of their personal Firefighting career. Your words will be forever heard to help those who come after you to continue the progress you made. Your unselfish willingness to share your personal battles and struggles will always be remembered. Thank you. To my Chair, Dr. Enslin, for working with me through my struggles, helping me find my way around the blind curves, and giving me encouragement to continue no matter the hurdle in front of me. Dr. Chambers, for your continued support and words of encouragement throughout this journey. Dr. Moore, for your constant reminder of keeping my head down and moving forward. Those small words of encouragement kept me moving when it was the darkest. Thank you all for your continued support during my journey, your guidance and support helped me to accomplish my goal. Dr. Kelly, no words can express the gratitude and appreciation I have for everything you have done for me through my journey. Through your help and guidance, you have taught me to fly and not be afraid of the next step. I will be forever grateful. To Dr. Jocelyn, for your constant reminder life is not as dark as it seems and there is a Higher Power watching over us. You constantly reminded me He has a plan for us and although we do not know the plan or outcome, we must keep a sense of humor! To Tony Vianna, Dr. Tony Lopez, Ron, Burke, Gregg, and Laura you opened your hearts and home to me when I needed to hear words of encouragement, support, or humor to keep me motivated and reminded me there is a light at the end of the tunnel. To my horse riding friends, Jennifer, Gwen, and Andrea, for encouraging me to stay in the saddle and hold on. You reminded me I would look back at my journey and realize how beautiful the ride was, no matter how hard my horse bucked! What a beautiful ride it was! To everyone who is a part of my life, but too numerous to mention, you have played a part in the success of my doctoral journey and the completion of this dissertation. I will always be thankful for all the words of encouragement and support you offered. Thank you!