Members of the New York City Council are urging the FDNY to step up its hiring of female firefighters.
Currently, just 44 out of 10,500 firefighters are women -- fewer than half of 1 percent.
City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley called those numbers unacceptable at a Wednesday hearing on barriers to increasing the ranks of female firefighters.
Crowley and other council members say the fire department's functional skills training keeps many women from joining the force.
Yet, Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro says the issue is recruitment and retention, not the academy.
Nigro told Crowley and the other Council members he has worked to improve diversity at the department in the six months he has held the job. Nigro said a benchmark to strive for would be a firefighting force that is 15 to 17 percent female.
He said he is confident the department can maintain its standards while ensuring that the hiring process is fair.
About 300 future firefighters will begin their academy training at the end of December and graduate in the spring. Officials say there could be as many as 10 women in that group.
The council is also considering a bill that would require the FDNY to release their application pool demographics.