Women Making It to the Top: From Firefighter to Fire Chief

A Case Study on women firefighters achieving the position of Fire Chief and the leadership style(s) that contributed to their success. 


This study focused on an international understanding of the challenges women face in achieving a position in the male-dominated career field of firefighting and sought to determine if a transformational leadership style played a role in their success. In-depth interviews were conducted with eight female fire chiefs from the United States to understand the challenges they encountered during their career ascension from firefighter to fire chief. The self-rater portion of the Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire (MLQ) was administered to determine the leadership skills and characteristics of each fire chief. The results indicated that all eight fire chiefs self-rated as having strong transformational characteristics and skills. Interview questions were developed to gain a deeper understanding of the leadership characteristics, career paths, technical skills, motivations, and challenges that led to their successful careers. Four themes emerged from the data analysis of the interviews: transformational characteristics; mentoring, training, and education; barriers; and diversifying assignments. A combination of all four themes and the MLQ findings support the findings of strong transformational leadership skills for all eight women, which may have contributed to their advancement to the rank of fire chief. Key words: diversification, education, female firefighters, fire chief, mentoring, MLQ, training, transformational leaders

This publication has been peer reviewed.
Publication Type: 
Journal Article
Dr Julie Ballaro and Dr Cary Blanchard
Year of Publication: 
Journal, Book, Magazine or Other Publication Title: 
International Leadership Journal
Date Published: 
Saturday, December 1, 2018
Place Published: 
A refereed journal published thrice yearly by Thomas Edison State University
Publication Language: 

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