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Spelman College 2018 WEL Graduates

Captain Sharyl Chatman, C'99, Shares Her Successful Journey of Working Within a Male-dominated Profession

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Stay True to Who You Are

Captain Sharyl Chatman, C'99, an accomplished firefighter with the Atlanta Fire Rescue Department, shared her story of overcoming challenges and climbing the ladder in a male-dominated profession as a Black female firefighter.

Chatman spoke to students during the second week of the Spelman Independent Scholars (SIS) spring interview speaker series on Tuesday evening, April 9, in the Olivia Hanks Cosby, Ed.D. Auditorium, Room 329.

Her fire service career started in 2003, at Fire Station 14, on Lee Street in southwest Atlanta. Throughout the years, she has earned recognition for her deep commitment to the community and ensuring the safety and security of the citizens.

It was not quick or easy road to travel to the top. Only 5 percent of women are firefighters in the United States. Chatman relied on perseverance and a strong support team.

“Never stop standing up for what you believe in. You learn different ways on how to do it. It’s a daily walk for a woman in fire service or a Black woman or person of color in fire services. It’s not a very diverse profession. You can lose yourself. You’re going to always be challenged, and the actions don’t have to be loud. There are many microaggressions that happen in terms of people not supporting your work, but you know your work is just as good as someone else, if not better,” Chatman said.

“Stay true to who you are. It is a very hard walk. Once people see who you are you will attract what is needed – not only for yourself, but for the environment. With wisdom, as you move along – I used to be fighting. You have moments where you fight. It’s how you articulate or address certain challenges and how you unite or collaborate to address things," she added.

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Managing Different Roles

As a firefighter, Chatman served as an analyst focusing on response analysis, planning, and performance measurement. She also developed a methodology for Fire Risk Valuation for buildings and operational risk assessment; and co-developed a web-based application used for response analysis and mitigation. As a lieutenant, she grew in operations as an officer that staffed single company, double company, and special operations city-wide.

"At each rank in my career, I have served in operations and administrative roles. I was assigned to an engine company and community that set a tone in my career and resulted in strong relationships that stand to this day. I've trained and worked as a part of our Georgia Search and Rescue (GSAR) team for AFRD; and in 2005, served as part of a metro Task Force deployed to Hurricane Katrina-impacted areas," Chatman said.

Chatman also served as the liaison to the fire chief for two appointed AFRD fire chiefs.  In that role, she provided executive support internally and externally to city leadership and partners; and managed the Public Information Office. She has also led several projects to include a Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) initiative and groundbreaking feasibility study with Georgia Tech; an initiative on dependent care and its adoption into the 2017 Atlanta Resilience Plan; and foundation for youth programs and employment pathway. 
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Wear Your Full Armour

Large Blue Quote LeftYou have to be armored up. You have to have a support system, a team and people who can guide you,” Chatman said as she credited her parents and other family members for helping her to obtain certain achievements.

Chatman, a Detroit native, received her mathematics degree from Spelman and has relied on her analytical skills throughout her career. She is the mother of two young boys and has been an accreditation manager since 2021. In that role, she facilitates organizational risk assessment, strategic planning coordination, and self-assessment through collaboration at all levels of AFRD and with partners. She supports two team members and manages the efforts of 15 volunteer members.

Chatman has received recognition as AFRD Firefighter of the Year, a Team Spirit Award, an Alliance Award for diversity, Unit Citation, and Fire Chief's Award of Distinction; an Atlanta City Council proclamation for collaboration with Georgia Tech; and recognition from local organizations and boards.

Chatman also serves as a board member with HEALing Community Center and Atlanta Public Schools; as a volunteer with the Spelman College Sister 2 Sister Mentoring Program, Healthy Mothers Healthy Babies Coalition of Georgia and other local organizations; and as peer assessor for other accredited fire service agencies.

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Spelman Independent Scholars Spring Line Up

Tuesday, April 2, 2024
Colonel Dolores H. Hampton
Olivia Hanks Cosby, Ed.D. Auditorium, Room 329
5 p.m. - 6 p.m.

Tuesday, April 9, 2024
Captain Sharyl Chatman
Olivia Hanks Cosby, Ed.D. Auditorium, Room 329
5 p.m. - 6 p.m.

Tuesday, April 16, 2024
Monique Monge
Olivia Hanks Cosby, Ed.D. Auditorium, Room 329
5 p.m. - 6 p.m.

Sunday, April 21, 2024
Camilla Lowe
1 p.m. - 2 p.m.