KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Sylvia Brown, who has spent 21 years with the Kansas City, Missouri, Fire Department, is working to inspire more women of color to choose a similar career path.
She sees her job as an “honor, privilege, commitment and dedication to those communities that have been underserved."
“Growing up, I never saw a fire truck, and if we did, we never saw anyone that looked like us in terms of serving the community,” Brown said.
Taking pride in herself and her service, Brown says her greatest passion lies in paving the way for the future.
"I love this career, I really couldn’t see myself doing anything else,” Brown said. “My passion, though, is to get more women on the job.”
Part of her recruiting efforts are conducted through her organization EFFECT — Equality for Firefighters through Education Community Service and Training.
“It is an organization that has been set up to increase diversity and create equal employment opportunities,” Brown said.
Her goal is to reach women and girls of all ages.
“I’m honest with them — yes, you are going to have some challenges. Yes, it's a great career if you can last 'til 27 years,” Brown said. “You can pay your bills, you can have a good quality of life, you get your benefits.”
Through her recruiting efforts, Brown has found many young women have concerns about the current demographic makeup of the department.
“Our total staffing, I believe, is a little over 1200, and I think the women overall probably make up about 2%-3% of that population,” Brown said. “Then you start looking at women of color, we make up less than 1%.”
Thus, Brown is working with Capt. Donnell Roberts, a diversity and recruitment officer with KCFD, to change such perceptions through outreach.