#FirefightingSexism: Fire Brigade Chief Launches Campaign to Stop People Saying ‘Fireman’

London Fire Commissioner Dany Cotton has demanded people stop using the word ‘fireman’, claiming that the term is putting women off choosing firefighting as a career.

London Fire Brigade’s first female commissioner, Cotton urged people show support for the service’s campaign, which seeks to encourage more women to take up the job, by using the hashtag #FirefightingSexism on social media and pledging to banish ‘fireman’ from their vocabularies.

“London is a complex and challenging city and it takes a diverse selection of skills, strengths and specialisms to protect it – qualities that both men and women possess,” stated the Commissioner, in a press release.

“I want to shake off outdated language which we know is stopping young girls and women from considering this rewarding and professional career.

“We owe it to tomorrow’s firefighters to challenge negative stereotypes today.”

General Secretary of the Fire Brigades Union Matt Wrack said: “The FBU has been using the term ‘firefighter’ and not ‘fireman’ for decades and has consistently complained to print and broadcast media and programme-makers for using this archaic term that no longer represents our modern fire and rescue service.”

“We wholeheartedly welcome more women into the fire and rescue service because we believe that a diverse service should reflect the communities that firefighters serve,” he stated, adding that the FBU is “proud and pleased” to be a part of the programme.

Also supporting the campaign to remove “firemen” from the English language was London Mayor Sadiq Khan, who said: “Sexism, or any kind of discrimination, has absolutely no place in London – including the capital’s Fire Brigade – and I fully support this fantastic campaign.

“With the UK’s first ever woman fire commissioner at the helm, London’s Fire Brigade is leading the way in breaking down the stereotypes, removing the barriers to women in the workplace, and becoming as diverse and inclusive as the city it serves,” he added.

In March, Commissioner Cotton used her first newspaper interview after taking up the role of London’s fire chief to insist that people’s continued use of the term “fireman” is behind women being less likely than men to want to join the fire brigade.

“Why did they have to go for Fireman Sam? What’s wrong with Firefighter Sam?” The Guardian quoted her as saying. “We have to change that perception of a six foot hairy-arsed bloke who can kick a door down.”

The government has made reducing the percentage of white men employed in the fire service a top priority, after Prime Minister Theresa May last year launched a fierce attack on the “lack of diversity” among fire brigade staff.

In recent weeks, the Home Office has attacked a number of fire brigades for employing too many white men in their ranks.

A government report in September slammed Essex Fire Service as “toxic”, with a “masculine ethos”, and demanded that the service “now seek to embrace the need for greater diversity and difference as a high priority”.

And earlier this month, the Home Office told “unacceptable” Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service that its white, male-dominated workforce has to change.

“What we’ve got to understand is the benefit of what people add to the service  — and I’m not just talking about women, I’m talking about BAME groups as well,” said Oxfordshire’s chief fire officer Simon Furlong, who announced that increasing minority representation would be his number one priority for the service.

“It’s massive to understand about communities when we’re dealing with vulnerable women, domestic abuse and crime, we need to understand that.

“I cannot tell you as a white male how it feels to be affected by some of that,” he added.


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