Minorities, Women Gain Professionally
Still, he said, an engineering background often is a prerequisite for pilots, and that is a field where relatively few minorities or women are enrolled. And the private-school flight training that most pilots receive can cost $50,000, on top of the cost of a college degree, he said.
The census figures show that 4 percent of the nation's 242,000 firefighters are women, a tiny gain from the previous decade. But Bendick said that some cities, such as Minneapolis and San Francisco, have departments that are more than 10 percent female.
"There seems to be huge variations in the culture at various workplaces," he said. "There are a bunch of employers running old-fashioned departments that have not changed at all."
Minorities have fared slightly better among firefighting forces, some of which Bendick said reflects long-running litigation filed two decades ago. Census numbers show, however, that the number of black firefighters stagnated during the decade.
Among police, women held steady at 13 percent of officers in 2000. But minorities account for one in four officers, a share nearly equal to their representation in the workforce overall. The biggest gains were among Hispanics, who account for one in 11 police officers.
"Every department in the country is attempting to hire more Hispanics, especially bilingual Hispanics, because of the true need," said Chuck Canterbury, president of the national Fraternal Order of Police. "But what we are finding a lot of times are second- and third-generation Hispanics who speak no Spanish."
Editor's note: This article by D'Vera Cohn and Sarah Cohen, was acquired by washingtonpost.com on December 30, 2003.
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