Female firefighters in the Swedish city of Gothenburg have slammed the policy of physical strength tests for the city’s firemen as outdated and say it disadvantages women.
In greater Gothenburg, firefighters are given a certain number of physical tests, such as being able to bench press 30kg (66lbs) 35 times and be able to jump two metres in a standard long jump.
While the tests are considered benchmarks, they aren’t even required to become a firefighter. Even so, two female firefighters claim the benchmarks are too high and put female candidates at a disadvantage, Nyheter Idag reports.
Lisa Dahlqvist, a firefighter and CrossFit enthusiast in Gothenburg, commented on the tests, saying: “There was a very big stir when I made it. There were news articles and I got a lot of attention because I’m a woman. But as a guy, you can pass these tests pretty easily, because this set of requirements benefits guys.”
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“It’s men’s standard right through. And when you divide it into such niche moments, it becomes very clear that you can exclude female applicants. It’s a very outdated mindset, yet they hold on to it very hard,” she added.
Dahlqvist said that she did not want to see the requirements lowered — as has been the case for some military recruitment requirements in countries like the UK up until 2019 when the policy was scrapped — but add nuance to the tests.
Another Swedish female firefighter, who asked to remain anonymous, said the subject of physical tests was a taboo subject in emergency services. “No one dares to talk about it, and especially not the girls themselves. I’m really sick of this and watching girls get their dream shattered time and time again,” she said.
Only around 5.7 per cent of the total number of firefighters working full time across Sweden are women.
Sweden’s firefighters have also faced growing challenges in no-go areas in recent years, with some firefighters being attacked by local youth while trying to put out fires.
In 2017, firefighters in the southern city of Malmo were forced to let a building burn to the ground due to violent attacks preventing them from doing their jobs.
In the UK, there have already been significant moves in lowering standards for firemen, in order to attract new recruits. Strength and fitness standards were significantly relaxed in 2011 to make it easier for women to pass selection, with the extending a 100kg (220lbs) ladder in 20 seconds test replaced with a test lifting a 30kg weight above the applicant’s head.
A would-be fireman also no longer has to prove they can carry an average-weight person 100 yards, according to a contemporary report.
The fire brigade in the UK has also been attacked by politicians for being too white and too male. Attempting to correct the imbalance, the London brigade’s most senior officer launched the ‘Firefightingsexism‘ campaign, which involves correcting people when they say “fireman”, the traditional name for the profession, to “firefighter”.
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