'Choose to Challenge' - shining a light on the work on women in the fire service

Across the world, communities are today celebrating International Women’s Day (March 8th) – and the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) is shining a light on the work of women across Fire and Rescue Services.

‘Choose to Challenge’ is the theme of this year’s global campaign – and NFCC Chair Roy Wilsher is urging everyone to consider the fire service as a career. While the number of women in the fire service is on the increase, more needs to be done.

As inspirational stories, videos and photos are shared across the UK FRS, it is clear to see the wide-range of invaluable work being carried out by women.

Mr Wilsher commented: “We have seen an increase in the number of female firefighters which is encouraging but we must all ‘choose to challenge’. We need to move away from the stereotypes which sadly still exist when it comes to the role of a firefighter.

“As we can all see from stories being shared today, there are so many inspirational and hardworking women across the UK FRS. If seeing these examples can encourage more women to see how they could do the job, have a career they could thrive in and apply, we are on the road to success.

“The past 12 months alone have seen firefighters and support staff undertake a wide-range of work to support communities during the pandemic. COVID does not recognise gender and the FRS response to it doesn’t either; helping those who need assistance is what is important to our staff.

"We see services across the country carrying out innovative recruitment campaigns which is helping to drive this forward. We want to make sure all sections of society know the benefits of being part of our fire family. It is not a job ‘for the boys’, it really is a job for all.

“We have a dedicated work programme which solely focuses on people. A key driver of this work is to ensure the UK FRS is attracting the best talent and getting the message out there that being a firefighter isn’t hindered by gender, race or backgrounds.

We need to move away from stereotypes that still exist about the role of a firefighter,

Roy Wilsher

“NFCC would like to see more progress in regard of the number of both female firefighters and those from ethnic minorities; the numbers are still far from good enough.”

The latest Home Office statistics (April 1st 2019-31 March 2020), show that number of female firefighters now make up seven per cent of the workforce, compared to 6.4 per cent last year. It is encouraging that for the second year running this is not due to a decrease in the number of male firefighters (due to retirement or finding other work).

International Women's Day has occurred for well over a century with the first gathering held in 1911. Women have played an essential role within the fire service since 1938 and by the end of Second World War, more than 90,000 women had joined both the auxiliary and national fire service.  

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