EMPOWER initially began as a group of women active in the emergency management community, getting together informally to discuss changes in our field. As we met, we began to discuss the role of women in the field and our resources. While there were a number of entities such as IAEM which serve a larger audience, or groups affiliated with a specific discipline (i.e., law enforcement, emergency medical services, firefighters), at the time there was not an organization focused specifically for women in emergency management. EMPOWER was the first!
As emergency management has grown, a new generation of women has entered the field with diverse backgrounds. These professionals contribute current knowledge, skills, styles, and fresh perspectives. The charter members of EMPOWER recognized the value in bringing a diverse range of backgrounds and expertise to emergency management. We are health care policy makers, environmental scientists, engineers, public relations specialists, sociologists, educators, trainers, veterans, and first responders.
Women often approach emergency management work with varied perspectives, leveraging the skills and viewpoints in which they have been formally trained. For example, health care professionals bring an added emphasis on personal needs, and routinely interact with and assist individuals and families during times of crisis. Formal sociology training allows the emergency manager to contribute insight into group behaviors in the aftermath of an emergency and manage expectations accordingly. Those with professional education backgrounds thrive while teaching operational teams and facilitating exercises. And environmental disciplines have long had an important role in protecting public health, safety, and the environment, as well as coordinating proper handling, storage, use, and disposal of hazardous materials with local first responders.
In the course of this effort, we solicited input and feedback from other experienced professionals. Linda C. Mathes, CEO of the American Red Cross, National Capital Area Chapter provided EMPOWER with this wisdom based on her 32 years of experience in emergency management:
“This is a field in which there is great opportunity and need for more women–and men–because the needs are many and diverse, daunting even….and they will always be there….We must always be ready for emergencies of all kinds, everywhere, any time. Our world has changed, elevating the need for emergency preparedness, response, and recovery that spans all boundaries and exceeds all previous expectations. With a vision and a spectacular team, almost anything is possible!”
What draws anyone to this field can be said for both men and women: a strong desire to help others, often with a direct and immediate impact; a sense of civic duty; an opportunity to manage a wide range of responsibilities; and a passion to improve how we respond to and recover from disaster events. Join us and participate in this exciting professional group, build capabilities, learn more about the field, and strongly encourage anyone who is interested and motivated to provide valuable input and lend experience to EMPOWER.