Female Nottinghamshire firefighter wants more women to join the service
A Nottinghamshire firefighter has spoken of the huge move to encourage more women to join the service where more than 90 per cent of firefighters are men.
Charley Weatherall-Smith – one of two female watch managers at Nottinghamshire Fire & 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 service, which employs 49 female firefighters, equating to 7.2 per cent of the operational workforce.
Deputy Chief Fire Officer Craig Parkin said the fire service is open to people of all genders.
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 service and it is slowly improving.
“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 ‘they can do this job’.
She said: “Being a firefighter is amazing, it is so varied and no day is the same.
“It is a physically demanding job, but really rewarding as well.
“A lot of people think 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 you do want to do, but are concerned you might not have the right fitness standards, come and have a go.”
When Mr Parkin joined the service in 1995, less than one per cent 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 promotion and progression is an option for them.
“There are some cultural things in the service we’re working hard on.
“We’ve 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 you cannot join the service as a leader.
He said: “As leaders you get paid more and the more women we’ve got getting paid more, brings the gender pay gap down.”
He said that in the Senior Leadership Team, four of the nine members are women – but none of them are firefighters.
He said the service has ‘female-only days’ where applicants can get a taste for the job without feeling intimidated by doing tests alongside male applicants.
Those interested in joining can visit the Yes You Can page on the service’s website.