Saturday 27 November 2021
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Nottingham

Video: Notts firefighter speaks of huge effort to encourage more women to join service

A Nottinghamshire firefighter has spoken of the huge move to encourage more women to join the service where more than 90% of firefighters are men.

Charley Weatherall-Smith – who is one of two female Watch Managers at Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service, said a lot of work is being done but “there is a long way to go”.

There is a drive to encourage more women to join the fire service in Nottinghamshire – which employs 49 female firefighters, equating to 7.2% of the operational workforce.

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Of these, 35 (8.1%) are wholetime and 14 (5.6%) are on-call.

Deputy Chief Fire Officer Craig Parkin said the fire service is open to people of all genders.

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Charley, 33, said: “In society when you say the word firefighter, you immediately think of a white male.

“As an outsider looking in, we are majority males still, but we are doing a lot of work to try and get more females into the fire service and it is slowly improving. We have got a long way to go.

 

“When I joined there were a lot fewer females so I always felt like I was in the minority. As the years have gone by, more females are realising it is a job for them and the barriers are dropping.”

She said it is especially rewarding to visit schools and educate young people that “they can do this job”.

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She said: “Being a firefighter is amazing, it is so varied and no day is the same.

“It is a physically demanding job but it is really rewarding as well.

“A lot of people think that you put out fires and that’s the end of it, but that is far from the truth. We go to all types of incidents.

“If it is something that you do want to do, but you are concerned you might not have the right fitness standards, come along and have a go.”

When Deputy Chief Fire Officer Craig Parkin joined the service in 1995, less than 1% of the firefighters were women.

He said: “We need to demonstrate as a sector that this a place for anybody who wants to be a firefighter.

“When we do get women applying, we’ve got to make them understand that promotion and progression is an option for them.

“There are some cultural things in the fire service that we’re working really hard on.

“We’ve still got plenty of work to do but we’ve done some great stuff.

“None of these should be seen as excuses as to why we don’t do more, and I am seeing a change in attitude and shift in culture gradually.

“As soon as we get more role models, other women will see that as good mentors and coaches for them.”

But Mr Parkin said it can be difficult to close the gender pay gap because of single tier entry – meaning that you cannot join the service as a leader.

He said: “Because we get so few women in and its single tier entry at the moment, of those so few, how many want to go on to be leaders?

“If we haven’t got enough women coming in at the bottom end, that funnels its way down.

“As leaders you get paid more and the more women we’ve got getting paid more, brings the gender pay gap down.”

He added that in the Senior Leadership Team [SLT], four of the nine members are women – but none of them are firefighters.

He added that the service have ‘female only days’ where applicants can get a taste for the job without feeling intimidated by doing tests alongside male applicants.

When asked if the gap will ever close, he added: “It will take a long, long time and that’s the thing.

“We recruited 20 months ago and those trainees are going through now, there were two women on a course of 12.”

Those interested in joining can visit the Yes You Can page on the fire service’s website.

 

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