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08-03-19

'Balance for Better' - celebrating women in the fire service

Today the National Fire Chiefs Council is celebrating all the inspirational women who work across the UK fire and rescue service, as part of International Women’s Day.

NFCC has been sharing stories and videos from fire and rescue services, showcasing the amazing work being carried by women across the sector, in a variety of different roles.

Women have played an essential role within fire services for more than 80 years. First serving in 1938 due to growing concern over the onset of the Second World War, and by the end of the war more than 90,000 women had joined both the auxiliary and national fire service.  

This year’s theme is ‘Balance for Better’, which aims to create a more gender balanced world. According to International Women’s Day, balance is not a women’s issue, but a business issue and ‘the race is on for the gender-balance across boardrooms, the government, balanced media coverage, and wealth’. Gender balance is essential for economies and communities to thrive.  

It is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity.

While the number of wholetime female firefighters in England have increased from 753 in 2002 (1.7%) to 1,980 in 2018 (5.7%),  there is still a long way to go to ensure the fire service is attracting and recruiting the most talented people it can.  If 50% of our population don’t think of us an employer of choice we lose the opportunity to get the very best.  

Roy Wilsher, NFCC Chair said: “As today is International Women’s Day, we are celebrating all the wonderful work carried out by women in UK fire and rescue service. NFCC is committed to increasing diversity across the fire sector and our national Workforce Committee has a number of key initiatives underway to support making this a reality.

“We also see innovative recruitment campaigns being run by fire and rescue services, encouraging people to find out about joining the fire service. These often target people who may think joining isn’t for them and these campaigns do a wonderful job in helping to break the myths about what the role involves.

“My view is very clear; we want a representative fire service where no one feels excluded from applying. I would also like to see the media support this and to stop using the term ‘fireman’ which is unhelpful and incorrect; it also fuels the image that it is a traditionally male dominated sector, carrying out masculine roles.  Many firefighters are female and highly inspiration to others; we should be celebrating and encouraging this.”

NFCC has also pledged its support for the United Nations #HeForShe campaign, created by UN Women (the United Nations entity for gender quality) which is a worldwide movement to end inequality of opportunity and quality of life because of gender.

A number of fire services across the country are actively carrying out work to support this campaign, while all fire and rescue services are working hard to encourage a more inclusive workforce. NFCC also supported the #FirefightingSexism campaign started by London Fire Brigade last autumn which was driven by London Commissioner Dany Cotton.

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