‘Nature makes us different’

FIREMEN: but no women

MADRID Mayor Ana Botella explained this week why there are no women among the new group of firefighters joining the city’s fire department.

Botella said she is a firm advocate for women’s equality after being asked in a press conference about the absence of women. However, she added that special physical conditions are required to join the fire department.

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“Physical conditions between women and men are different. Nature makes us different and that is why there are no women in this group of 214 firefighters,” she explained.

“Ana Botella is sometimes reckless when giving her opinion,” said municipal PSOE spokesperson Jaime Lissavetzky. “I do not usually agree with her and in this case I do not agree with her either.”

In 2011, seven women wishing to join Madrid’s fire department challenged the demanding physical tests all candidates are required to take claiming they were “discriminatory” and “impossible for women to pass.”

One of the most controversial physical tests required candidates to cover a distance of 110 metres in 18 seconds carrying 12 kilograms of weight (six on each hand). “A man could do it but it would be impossible for a woman,” said Pedro Manonelles, President of the Spanish Sports Medicine Federation.

In another test candidates were asked to swim 25 metres underwater, 50 above water, then underwater again and pick up 3 rings located at the bottom of the pool – 100 metres in less than one minute and 40 seconds. “It is a very demanding test, just too much, for both men and women,” said Manonelles at the time.

Esperanza Vicente Alguacil, 37, was the first woman to join Madrid’s Fire Department after successfully completing all required tests in 1985.


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