Gender neutral legislation seeks to update antiquated first responder titles

Photo courtesy of the FDNY

Upholding the notion that New York is a progressive state, legislation has been written to remove gender labels from law enforcement and other first responder titles.

In an effort to update antiquated and inaccurate titles, Sen. Betty Little, R-Queensbury, and Assemblywoman Jo Anne Simon, D-Brooklyn, announced the introduction of gender neutral legislation (S.6542-a/A.8321–a) on Wednesday, June 14.

The law would replace terms such as “fireman” and “policeman” with “firefighter” and “police officer” to promote greater participation by women in these occupations.

“Use of [gender specific] language for fire and police provides an outdated worldview that working [in those professions] is only for men,” Simon said. “There is a long history of women serving in both fire and police. Updating that language would honor the important legacy of women who have served before.”

The New York Police Department has employed female officers since the early 1900s as a separate designation called the “Policewomen Bureau.”

In 1973, the distinction was removed and the first gender neutral civil-service exam was implemented.

The Fire Department of New York has made similar efforts, accepting female firefighters since 1982.

The gender neutral legislation works toward kicking the stigma that certain jobs are designated exclusively for men and honors the trailblazing accomplishments made by women in the NYPD and FDNY alike.

“In 1982, the original 45 women became firefighters. That number is now at 63 out of 10,500 men,” said FDNY firefighter Jackie-Michelle Martinez. “This is a great day for women to see ourselves in careers not made just for men.”

The bill promotes the idea that women deserve the same respect in the workforce as men, and by using gender neutral terminology, jobs that were once seen as nontraditional for women will now appeal to everyone.

“Women are here and here to stay, and are not taking a backseat to anyone,” Simon said.

The Assembly bill is in the Government Employees Committee while the Senate version is in the Civil Service Committee.