Katie Becker wanted to leave no doubt about what had driven her out of the Los Angeles Fire Department. So the young firefighter emailed top brass at the LAFD in the spring of 2019 to denounce the sexism she said she experienced in a department “littered with cruel leadership and misogynistic co-workers.”
Becker’s complaint felt like a gut punch to a group of veteran women at the 3,304-member Fire Department, affirming to them that the agency’s “frat house” culture endured.
The high-ranking women met with Mayor Eric Garcetti that summer to show him a follow-up letter Becker had written about her experiences at the department. For the women, it was a chance to show the mayor that more urgent action was needed to fulfill his promise of expanding the ranks of female firefighters and to overhaul an LAFD culture in which women and minority firefighters have said they frequently felt bullied and mistreated.
But despite that meeting, and repeated pledges by Garcetti over the years to address gender equity, advocates for women in the Fire Department are dismayed by what they view as slow progress. Their unhappiness burst into view in recent weeks, amid a public falling-out between the Garcetti administration and two of its appointees on the Fire Commission who have been the most vocal advocates for women’s rights.
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