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Website Shows Women How to Succeed in Emergency Management

The site has an abundance of information for women interested in emergency management and related fields, including a resume section, a data section, articles and lists of colleges and universities for training.

FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell sitting at a conference table speaking into a microphone mounted to the table while gesturing with both hands.
FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell.
Women have made strides in moving up the ladder in the emergency management field as evidenced by Deanne Criswell leading the charge as FEMA’s first female administrator.

But the numbers overall are still not what they should be. According to national statistics from Data USA, more than 62 percent of emergency managers are male. And on average, they make $15,000 more than their female counterparts.

When Brittany Perkins Castillo, CEO of emergency management contractor AshBritt, was poking around looking for statistics on women in emergency management, she didn’t like what she found and decided to do something about it. She created the website, WTFem (Women in the Field of Emergency Management), a one-stop shop where women can find resources on how to work themselves into a career in emergency management, public works and waste management.

The site offers an abundance of information, including articles on women in emergency management, public works and construction; statistics on women in the various fields; information on colleges and universities that offer training, certifications and degree programs in emergency management; a 10-question section with interviews of women in the field; and a resume section.

“I was preparing to speak on a panel a little more than a year ago and I was collecting data,” Perkins Castillo said. “Part of it was it was hard to find statistics about women in emergency management, so I looked into solid waste and public works. Not super easy to find.”

She started the website with the resource and data page and then added the 10 questions page to share experiences. The next big piece, she said, was the resume section. She has observed that people often don’t clearly convey their work experience.

“People don’t always recognize their logistics skills,” she said. “You set up a field hospital in four days, that’s an awesome thing to put on a resume. We have a good pool of folks in the private sector to help connect folks to help with cover letters, finding hiring managers, etc.”

She added that perhaps the biggest obstacle for getting ahead in emergency management and related fields is exposure. In this respect, it doesn’t hurt to have a woman as the current FEMA administrator.

“There are some great groups out there that are starting to help with this, and FEMA and me in this new role can really help to deliver on that message and drive the entire emergency management community to be more proactive in creating an emergency management workforce that represents the communities we serve,” Criswell told Emergency Management.

Perkins Castillo said the time is right for women to find a role in emergency management. Fresh off the pandemic, the role of the emergency manager is an important topic, and recently women have been in positions to respond to disaster scenarios.

“The goal is to build resilience in cities and communities and have an effective disaster response,” she said. “So you look at the pandemic and when you’re trying to get out the vaccine, who did you turn to? You often turn to churches and schools and families where the heads of households tend to be women.”

Perkins Castillo said in some communities, women find it difficult to see themselves in the role of emergency manager or in public works or waste management. Specifically, the idea of traveling or being on the road comes with barriers.

Women in these communities often go into the retail and service sectors, but the earning potential in emergency management and some related fields is greater.

“The safety industry is a great place to start,” she said. “There are lots of entry points without having to go into higher education, lots of certificates and training courses where you can elevate through the field. It’s a strong financial career in many cases.”