Capt. Tonya Boyd just became the first Black woman to be named deputy chief of the New York City Fire Department (FDNY) in its over 150-year history.
The Brooklyn native climbed the ranks, starting at the FDNY’s Emergency Medical Services (EMS) while in college —to pay the bills for nursing school —and rising to captain in her two-decade career, the New York Daily News reports. She is now the highest-ranking black woman in the entire department of about 4,000 employees.
“African-American women will see someone who looks like them as a deputy chief and they will know more is possible,” Boyd said. “Their careers won’t top out at paramedic or even lieutenant.”
The singularity of her rise also comes from the fact that the leadership path for EMS employees is not as clear as it is for firefighters in the FDNY. Unlike the firefighters, a civil service EMS promotion exam is only given for lieutenant. Promotions above that rank are awarded by discretionary appointment, and the FDNY has faced several gender and race discrimination lawsuits, alleging that women and minorities get overlooked with this process.
Boyd has been able to overcome this, receiving discretionary appointments to become a captain, and now, her new role as a deputy chief. Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro spoke highly of Boyd’s accomplishments thus far.
“Tonya is not only helping to raise the bar for our ability to provide pre-hospital care, she’s also demonstrating to young women of all backgrounds the incredible rewarding career they can achieve in the FDNY,” he said.