Charlotte Her-Story. Charlotte's First Black Woman Engineer Venessa Roy
“If I’m being honest, there probably were people that actually did want me to fail, to prove the point that women, especially black women, can’t do this job. I’ve always been a strong-minded and hard-working person, so I tend to let my work ethic do the talking.”
Despite the push for more diversity in hiring, less than five percent of career firefighters across the country are women, according to the National Fire Protection Association. Of that small percentage, less than two percent of those women are Black. Though the statistics offer a disappointing glimpse inside Fire Stations across our country, Engineer Venessa Roy is creating a new reality for herself, and women alike. Roy has worked as a Firefighter for a little over 10 years, but, more recently, was promoted to engineer; an expert who is responsible for the operation maintenance as well as the driving of the fire engine, and she is the first Black Woman in Charlotte to do so. Now in her third year as an engineer, Roy credits her success to her military upbringing, athleticism, and her curiosity about the unknown.
Not only is Roy a leader at her station, but in her free time she works to inspire curiosity in young women around Charlotte through the overnight young women’s camp, Camp Ignite. It’s a free hands-on camp that focuses on the development of teamwork, self-confidence, and leadership skills in young women by utilizing fundamental firefighting skills. As a camp counselor, Roy exemplifies what it means to be a Woman leader here in our community, while also being independent, resilient, and multifaceted.
In moments when Roy isn’t driving the fire engine or mentoring teenagers, you may find her painting, writing poetry, or working as a freelance photographer. “I secretly began writing poetry in 2003, and in 2013 I self-published my first compilation of poems, Shattered Mirrors,” Roy says. “I’ve also dabbled in photography as well! I’m all about events, sports, and candid moments. There’s something about being able to capture breathtaking views, unique architecture, and moments.”
The City of Charlotte is fortunate to have Venessa at our service. She’s Creating a path for Women of Color to rank highly within Fire Departments here in Charlotte, and mentoring the next generation of Fire Women, all while staying true to herself.