Garcetti still struggling to expand the number of female firefighters

Four years ago, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti vowed to revamp the way the city hires firefighters by introducing more women into a department that has been overwhelmingly male.

Yet despite increasingly aggressive recruitment efforts, the Fire Department has seen only modest gains. Last month, 3.1% of its firefighters were women, according to employment data prepared by the Fire Department. That figure was 2.9% in July 2013, the month Garcetti took office.

The sluggish rate of progress threatens Fire Chief Ralph M. Terrazas' push to double the number of women firefighters by 2020. Once civilian employees are added to the tally, the department actually has seen a slight decrease in the overall percentage of women since Garcetti became mayor.

Deputy Mayor Jeff Gorell, who oversees public safety for Garcetti, said the mayor is still pushing to make sure 5% of the department's firefighters are women by 2020. The increase so far, he argued, is not "insignificant."

"We're happy to see the increase," he said. "We're happy to see the movement in the direction that we want to go, which is to get to 5%."

Garcetti halted hiring at the Fire Department in March 2014 after a series of Times reports exposed nepotism and mismanagement in hiring. At the time, the mayor condemned the city's selection methods as "fatally flawed" — and promised to ensure that its workforce "better reflects the city."

The Fire Department's push to recruit and retain women is a focus not just of the mayor but also his wife, Amy Wakeland. Last month, Gorell and Terrazas went to Getty House, the official mayor's residence, to brief Wakeland on the campaign to hire more women.