KC breaks barriers with two women leading emergency services

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — For the first time in the city’s history, the fire department has two women in leadership roles.
This milestone marks major strides in an agency that has a history of sexual harassment and discrimination complaints.

When Donna Maize was named interim fire chief last month, the 26-year veteran firefighter joined Dr. Erica Carney, the city’s medical director, they made Kansas City the only major metropolitan area in the nation where two women are charge of emergency services.

According to the EMS Medical Directors Consortium, a conference made up of leaders from America’s 40 largest 911 systems, only London has had women in both the roles of fire chief and medical director at the same time.

The two women recognize that they are trail blazers, serving as role models and inspirations to other girls who dream of careers as first responders.

“I came on in 1992 as a firefighter,” Maize, who is considering seeking the permanent fire chief position, said. “Unfortunately, it’s just not a service that I feel girls look towards when they grow up. They are used to seeing people that look like them.”

Complaints of sex discrimination plagued the fire department in the 1990s and early 2000s. Juries awarded verdicts in favor of two female firefighters in 2001 and 2002.

Dr. Carney and Chief Maize said they were not intimidated by the department’s history. They are trying to bring a new perspective and way of thinking to the tasks of emergency responders.

“As the fire service has evolved, we’ve seen a little bit more integration with females and more diversity within the fire service,” Maize said.

Ultimately, the two say it’s about the training, knowledge and skills they bring to public service that will serve Kansas City best, not their gender or race.

“It was always my goal to see this day,” Maize said.

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